British Columbia

Volunteers needed: Aunt Leah's tree lots in Metro Vancouver struggle to find helpers

Aunt Leah’s Place is struggling to find enough volunteers to staff its Christmas tree lots in Metro Vancouver as many people choose to stay home during the pandemic.

In 2019, the social enterprise raised over half a million dollars for youth programs

The Orford family in Aunt Leah’s Tree Lot on Granville Street in Vancouver. Three generations of Orfords volunteer for the organization. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Aunt Leah's Place is struggling to find enough volunteers to staff its Christmas tree lots in Metro Vancouver as many people choose to stay home during the pandemic.

Aunt Leah's Christmas lots are a social enterprise where all the funds raised support programs for children and youth connected to the foster care system including housing, food security, education and employment resources.

"A lot of our returning volunteers feel more comfortable staying home this year," said Hope Rayson, volunteer coordinator.

Leading up to the holiday season, the charity was concerned business would be down at its three lots this year due to the pandemic.

But fortunately, Rayson says business is up 500 per cent.  

"We could just really use a hand to help support foster youth, moms and babies this holiday season," she said.

James Orford started volunteering for Aunt Leah's when he was about 18. Orford now helps load Christmas trees for sale at the organization's lots between jobs. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

This year, Rayson says volunteers are paired with customers — in a COVID-friendly way — to help them pick out a tree, measure it and even help them carry it to their vehicles.

Rayson says the tree lot is an outdoor activity, but everyone is still required to wear a mask in the lot. They are also maintaining a maximum limit of customers allowed in the lot at any point.

In 2019, the Christmas tree lots raised more than half a million dollars for the charity.

"That's why it is so critical for our organization," said Rayson.

With files from Joel Ballard

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