Christmas is a time for giving, but with so many places to choose from, where do you direct your generosity?
Here's a guide to some campaigns and organizations that could use your help around Vancouver this year.
The Child Life Department at BC Children's Hospital works to ensure every patient and their siblings have presents on Christmas morning. Contributions either provide children with Christmas gifts or keep the department well-stocked with toys so that patients can play throughout the year. The best way to contribute is to donate online.
There are whole families who will have difficulty making ends meet this holiday season. Why not help them out? Big Brothers of Greater Vancouver is coordinating an "Adopt a Family" program in which participants buy gift cards for whole households to help them buy presents and groceries. Donors are asked to contribute anywhere between $250 and $300 for a one-child family and $975 to $1075 for a six-child family.
Covenant House is accepting donations of new clothes and toiletries for its annual backpack program, in which items are divided into 275 bags and handed out to young people aged 16 to 24. The organization needs lots of men's and women's socks this year, as well as shaving cream, hoodies, umbrellas and hand warmers.
Every year, Family Services of Greater Vancouver collects donations so that they can buy food and clothing for families and young people who have difficulty meeting their basic needs at Christmastime. Contributions help the organization buy vouchers for food, clothes and other needs, and 100 per cent of donations go directly to their beneficiaries.
The Downtown Eastside Women's Centre provides support to over 300 women, children and seniors every day, providing necessities such as clothing, hot meals, computer access and toiletries in Vancouver's poorest neighbourhood. The Centre is always accepting donations of items such as socks, underwear, shoes, towels, arts and crafts supplies, used DVDs and much more. What better time to donate than now?
As many families chow down on turkey and stuffing this Christmas, many others will find themselves struggling to keep basic food in the house. The Greater Vancouver Food Bank is there to help, allowing those in need to visit its warehouses once a week. Items in heavy demand include proteins such as meat, fish and beans, natural peanut butter, whole wheat pasta and rice, fruit juices, low-sugar cereal and baby food. The food bank cannot accept homemade foods, expired food, products with alcohol or open packages.
Every November, city coordinators with Homeless Partners interview homeless people in their communities, learn their stories and record two wish list items for the Christmas season. They then post those stories to their website, where donors choose which items they'd like to buy for the less fortunate. Homeless Partners is focused on expansion this year: the organization just completed a $10,000 Indiegogo campaign that will allow the program to reach more cities.
Check out images from the Lower Mainland Christmas Bureau's toy drive efforts in past years. The story continues below the slideshow:
The Lower Mainland Christmas Bureau has one thing on its mind: ensuring that kids have toys waiting for them on Christmas morning. The bureau hosts a year-round warehouse that has donated as many as 100,000 toys in past years, in addition to clothes and food vouchers. Toys are accepted at a series of events throughout the year including the Lower Mainland 4x4 Toy Run, the Pan Pacific Vancouver Christmas Wish Breakfast and Coast Mountain Toys for Tots, in which a bus decked out like a reindeer collects toys from transit staff around Vancouver. Donations are also accepted at Oakridge Centre mall and various Vancouver fire halls. Toys in demand for young kids include building blocks, musical toys and paints, while elementary school kids and teens have building toys, games, air hockey, and sports and concert tickets high on their wish lists.
The Make-A-Wish Foundation of British Columbia and the Yukon spends most of the year making wishes come true for kids suffering from life-threatening illnesses. The foundation offers numerous avenues for contributors: they can donate in honour of friends and family; organize toy drives in their offices as part of the Fill the Cupboard campaign; or attend community events such as the Candle Grotto at VanDusen Botanical Garden's Festival of Lights, where you can light a candle for a $5 donation. Donors with deeper pockets can try the Adopt-a-Wish program in which, for $6,000, the foundation will share the story of a wish come true.
Though it's not Vancouver-specific, relief efforts for victims of Typhoon Haiyan hit close to home for many of the city's residents. The Government of Canada will match donations from individual Canadians until Dec. 23.
The Union Gospel Mission serves three meals a day on the Downtown Eastside, and it needs donations as Christmas approaches. Contributors can donate $39.48 to provide 12 Christmas meals; $69.06 for 21 Christmas meals; or $125.02 for 38 Christmas meals; or any other amount to cover as many meals as possible. The mission also has donation packages in which contributions go to food and care for people in its programs.
"Presents of Peace" offers three programs people can donate to this holiday season. Crabtree Corner Family Resource Centre is one of them. It's a program that offers transitional housing for mothers and pregnant women who are overcoming substance abuse issues. The centre also provides hot meals, early learning for children and programs that teach residents how to be better parents. Donors can also contribute to the YWCA's Emergency Food Vouchers, in which all donations go directly to providing food for families living in poverty, or the Dress with Dignity program, which provides $10 gift certificates for program participants who can't afford necessities such as clothing for themselves or their kids.
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