Empty Stocking Fund: Burnaby neighbourhood house helps with gift vouchers, toys, and language services

Burnaby Neighbourhood House is one of nearly 26 community organizations that receive donations from The Province’s Empty Stocking Fund.

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Moving to a new country brings many challenges, says Sara Martinez. And she’s grateful to have had help along the way.

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Martinez moved here with her husband and 13-year-old daughter from Honduras in 2019. A year later she was pregnant.

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“My nurse referred me to Burnaby Neighbourhood House,” she said.

“Since then, they have helped me with many resources. They have given me gift cards for food, diapers, wipes, and other things for my baby. When my baby was born, we started to go to the Christmas program.”

Burnaby Neighbourhood House is one of nearly 26 community organizations that receive donations from The Province’s Empty Stocking Fund. The funds help the non-profit buy grocery gift cards for families at Christmas time.

“We’re very grateful and dependent on the annual donation that we receive from the Empty Stocking Fund, as it helps us to support local families and children in need,” said Burnaby Neighbourhood House CEO Antonia Beck.

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Last year, Burnaby Neighbourhood House distributed $471,935 in holiday items to over 3,150 people including 1,420 children, 212 seniors and 500 unique individuals — this is, “those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness,” said Nelson.

The funds also pay for a Breakfast with Santa. “This is often a first-time experience for newcomer families,” she said.

“It was so nice, the kids were so happy,” Martinez said of last year’s breakfast. “We enjoyed delicious pancakes with syrup and coffee, juice. The kids had many craft activities to do, they were singing and playing.”

Burnaby Community Services, which is part of Burnaby Neighbourhood House and also receives donations from the Empty Stocking Fund, manages the Burnaby Christmas Bureau.

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The bureau operates a toy room in the old Sears space at Amazing Brentwood mall. In December, families will get to choose three toys for each child. Some of the toys are sourced from the Burnaby Firefighters Annual Toy Drive at Metropolis at Metrotown, this year on Dec. 9 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

“Last year was so amazing,” Martinez said. “My daughter and son got really, really good presents. My daughter got a Monopoly game and my son got some clothes, shoes, and also a remote control car. He loves the cars.”

Martinez is hoping to pick up another toy car for her youngest and a basketball for her oldest.

“She likes sports, football and basketball. She told me the brand, but I don’t remember. There’s a special ball that a famous team uses in the NBA games.”

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Martinez is also grateful for the organization’s language services. Burnaby Neighbourhood House receives federal funding for settlement workers who are able to support newcomers and immigrants. The team, which can speak 10 different languages among them, provides helps to newly arrived immigrants with basic needs such as finding housing, language classes and getting their children into school.

“When I arrived here, I didn’t know much English or the culture,” she said. “I started with them through the outreach program. They connect families with the community and community resources. Through them I found my best friend. And we are so excited to start Christmas time with them and the Christmas bureau, too.”

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For 105 Years, The Province’s Empty Stocking Fund has been dedicated to making the holidays brighter for B.C. residents who are less fortunate. With the generosity of our readers and supporters, the fund gives money to 26 B.C. community organizations that provide food hampers and gifts to children, needy families and singles.

The 2023 campaign will run from Nov. 1 to Dec. 31 and donations can be made:

Online at: https://theprovince.com/esf

By mail to: The Province Empty Stocking Fund
968 East Cordova Street,
Vancouver, B.C., V6A 1M6

By calling: 604-253-6911

2023 direct donation link.

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