Fill the cupboard, fill hearts this Christmas

The objective of the Full Cupboard Holiday Program is right there in the name – but there is more to the local effort to bring food and gifts to the disadvantaged.

Langley-based Envision Financial has set up its Christmas trees for the fifth year in a row, and is gathering gifts for children and seniors, as well as food for local food banks.

“Food Bank Canada’s HungerCount 2014 revealed that BC food bank usage is up 3.6% and 30.8% of food bank users are children,” said Envision manager of community investment Susan Byrom.

Byrom said the program was dubbed the Angel Tree program when it first started.

The trees in local branches would be hung with tags with the ages and genders of children, or indicating a gift for a senior.

Customers could pick a tag and bring in a gift aimed at that person.

The focus on seniors was one of the things that set the program apart.

“We have seniors who are isolated, we have seniors who may not have family anymore,” Byrom said.

Langley City in particular has a sizeable population of seniors, many of them living alone or in some form of care home.

The program also helps offer meaning to people who may not have a senior in their life anymore, Byrom said.

Two years ago the Angel Tree morphed into the Full Cupboard program. It still gathers gifts but also food for food banks in all the communities where the credit union operates.

Replacing the angel cards on the trees are cards with lists of things needed by food banks, and also of common gifts for children at different ages, including infants, along with gift ideas for seniors.

Other cards list things that are always needed by food banks, including cash contributions that can be put to good use on the charities’ expenses.

The Full Cupboard has already raised $176,000, and collected more than 17,000 pounds of food over its short lifetime.

Getting the food where it’s going and the gifts to those who need them is done by partnering with local organizations and charities.

In Langley, that means working with groups like the Langley Seniors Resource Centre, the Langley Lodge, and the Langley Food Bank.

As technology changes, new ways of giving have appeared, including texting to donate. This will be the first year the Fill the Cupboard program has a text to donate system.

Texting FULL to 41010 will donate $10 to a local food bank. If your phone number can be localized by a common first three numbers (like 530 or 856 in Langley) the money will stay within Langley. For numbers that can’t be localized, the money will be divided up or go to a food bank that needs more financial help, said Byrom.

One of the pleasures of the program is seeing staff and members taking part, said Byrom.

“Gosh, it’s overwhelming every year,” she said. “It’s heartwarming to see the number of gifts and food that come in.”

Items can be dropped off at all Envision locations, as well as at the Langley Advance offices at 6375 202 St.

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