This Christmas season, 557 Langley preschool and kindergarten students joined the 2,000 Wind and Tide preschoolers from across the Lower Mainland to partner with Union Gospel Mission (UGM) in providing essential food items and specially chosen gifts for 56 low-income families.
Founding director of Wind & Tide Schools Rachel Cram supervises over 2,000 young students from her home in Langley.
With 30 preschools, kindergartens and child development centres in Langley, Surrey, and across the Lower Mainland, Cram is kept busy just running the operation with the help of education director Suzie Warneke.
But each Christmas, Cram prompts her many young students to learn about the needs in their own communities and to play a part in solving those needs.
She does so through UGMâ€™s Gifts of Hope initiative, where each year her students assemble holiday hampers for families in need.
â€œThrough the generosity of the children at Wind & Tide and other donors, weâ€™ve been able to provide 200 hampers for families as well as some singles,â€ said Barb Atkins, manager of UGMâ€™s Women and Families Centre. â€œEach hamper is packed with all of the food items needed to prepare a tasty Christmas dinner including gift cards to purchase a turkey, groceries and dairy as well as a personalized gift for each family member.â€
UGM delivers the hampers to low income families in Vancouverâ€™s most disadvantaged neighbourhoods.
In November, each school received a list of needed food items, as well as information about the gender, age, and interests of each family member.
Then the students got to work, bringing donations from home, gathering food, choosing toys and gifts, and slowly watching the hampers fill up.
â€œIt is quite amazing to witness the students experiencing the joy of giving to those in need,â€ said Warneke â€œAt age three and four, these children understand this. They see the importance of teamwork and how together they can make a difference.â€
The Gifts of Hope initiative began in 2007 when Wind & Tide Schools partnered with UGM after families expressed an interest in meeting local needs and teaching their children to give where they live. What started out as Christmas stockings for school-aged children transitioned into an annual toy drive.
After several successful years, the preschools decided to supply entire hampers to low-income families through UGM.
â€œEach year the families and children make this a priority,â€ said Warneke. â€œI see how this initiative impacts families and how grateful they are to teach their children how to give.
â€œThe hope is that they go on to give in the future.â€
About Union Gospel Mission
Union Gospel Mission has been feeding hope and changing lives of men, women, youth, and children for over 70 years. Through its 7 locations in Metro Vancouver and the city of Mission, UGM provides counselling, education, safe housing, and alcohol and drug recovery to those struggling with poverty, homelessness, and addiction.
The heart of the mission is to demonstrate Godâ€™s transforming love, ease the burden of the most vulnerable, rebuild the lives of the broken, and offer dignity to those who feel cast aside. To learn more, visit www.ugm.ca.
About Wind & Tide
Rachel Cram, Director of Wind & Tides Schools, began her first preschool in the basement of her home in White Rock and has seen it grow into 30 preschools, kindergartens, childcare, afterschool programs and a family resource centre spread across the Lower Mainland.
From the very beginning, the philosophy of Wind & Tides has been to start students on a path of altruistic living and awareness of the needs in their communities and abroad, through classroom instruction and hands on learning.