Donalda Whaites and Sue Pedersen have been volunteering in the toy depot of Langley Christmas Bureau for years. (Roxanne Hooper/Langley Advance)

VIDEO: Langley Christmas Bureau braces for busy toy distribution days

Volunteers spent the weekend sorting gifts donated for kids from Langley’s underprivileged families.

Just ahead of toy distribution day in Langley (and we’re not talking Christmas Day), a team of elves is hard at work sorting toys and doing their part to ensure all local families have a Merry Christmas.

We’re not talking about Santa’s A-team of elves. We’re talking about the second-stringers preparing for the impending onslaught of parents arriving at the Langley Christmas Bureau on Monday.

This local team of Christmas elves has been working for weeks sorting children’s gifts into age-specific categories.

They put the final touches on the depot this weekend, and are now ready to open the doors to 737 families with almost 1,700 children that have registered and said they need some help this holiday season, explained Donalda Whaites, the long-time bureau toy depot organizer.

There’s parents coming in to pick up toys for 433 Langley children on Monday morning, and that’s just the first of three toy depot days, she said, predicting a busy week ahead.

Whaites is assisted by several dozen volunteers, including nine-year-old best friends Madeline Moon and Caitlyn Watts.

Madeline has been volunteering at the bureau for at last four years – with her grandmother – and admits to becoming quite the expert toy sorter in that time.

She loves seeing all the new toys on the market each season, and said her fav this year is hands down the Fingerlings.

This year, she brought along her buddy, Caitlyn, who was equally excited to pitch in.

“I want to help out children who don’t get toys, like they don’t have enough money for toys for Toys ‘R’ Us and stuff,” Caitlyn said, anxious to learn the ropes at the depot and vowing to be back again next year.

Grateful for all the donations they’ve received this year – including about 2,000 toys collected at the new Christmas Wish Breakfast – Whaites said they’re ready and she’s grateful to all who have helped out.

Looking out over table after table of toys and all the folks volunteering, Whaites said Saturday that she’s thrilled to see different generations sharing in this “incredible experience.”

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What do families receive?

Fellow volunteer and sponsor organizers Jean Schaffer explained that the majority of families that registers with the bureau are sponsored.

This year, there are more than 240 sponsors (churches, individuals, businesses, and organizations) that are taking care of the holiday food provisions (not just a Christmas dinner) for more than 450 families.

The other registered families, Schaffer explained, are provided with grocery gift cards because they face specific dietary needs or language is an issue – preventing sponsorship.

Whether the food needs for a family are provided by a sponsor or the bureau, Schaffer explained that parents are also invited in to shop during toy depot days (this coming week), when they can select gifts for each child in their family.

Each child is entitled to one large gift, one small gift, a few stocking stuffers, one book, and a game for the family, Schaffer added.

“We are so ready for toy depot days. We are so ready and excited to be giving all these families the help they need,” said office manager Velma MacAllister.

“Monday is going to be so wonderful. It’s such a warm feeling to be a part of this,” added MacAllister, who joined the team last year.

“I just love it,” she shared, noting a big part of the draw for her is the people she works with.

“And, of course,” she said, the other motivator is: “To help our community. To help the families that really need the help at Christmastime.”

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Donations still being accepted

Last-minute donations are still welcome.

Contributions – be it financial or new toys – can still be dropped off at the Langley Christmas Bureau, 20702 Eastleigh Cres. (in the old legion building).

“We want to say thank you to the community, who are extremely generous in all the toys that they’ve donated this year. Thanks to everyone,” Whaites said.

For more information, people can please call 604-530-3001 or visit their website.

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