One carefully wrapped gift at a time, volunteers at Semiahmoo Shopping Centre are nearing their goal of raising $100,000 for cancer research and support.
Since launching in 2004, the by-donation gift-wrapping program has brought in close to $84,000 for the Canadian Cancer Society, according to volunteer co-ordinator Janet Jans.
The program, which runs each holiday season from mid-November until Christmas Eve, is a collaborative effort between a large network of volunteers, Semiahmoo Shopping Centre management and community members and organizations.
“With cancer, you can’t meet someone who hasn’t been touched by it,” Jans said. “That’s why we all feel so lucky that we can do what we do here.”
The program is run completely by volunteers and all expenses – including wrapping paper, tape, ribbons, signage and a large kiosk near the mall’s customer service desk – are covered by Semiahmoo Shopping Centre.
Including the approximate cost of renting mall space, marketing director Jeri Cox estimates the yearly tab to be more than $5,000.
With no overhead and no staff to pay, Jans notes that 100 per cent of the donations go straight to the Canadian Cancer Society.
“There’s nobody taking a bite off the top,” she said. “We’re hoping to make it to $100,000 next year.”
This year, Jans has 87 volunteers on her roster who spend countless hours wrapping up packages of all shapes and sizes, in exchange for donations of the customer’s choosing.
“We don’t say ‘this size is $5, this size is $7,” she explained. “You donate what you want. For some people, a toonie is a lot of money.”
The volunteers come from all corners of the community and include local high school students, retirees and everything in between.
“We’ve had doctors, real estate agents, nurses, teachers… everything,” Jans said. “We’ve even had students who started eight years ago, in Grade 9 or 10, who take time off from work or school now to come join us.”
The loyalty extends beyond the volunteers, too, according to Jans, who said each year the gift-wrap station is visited by local firefighters with a huge haul of gifts to be donated to kids in need, as well as other local businesses seeking their wrapping skill for office gift exchanges .
“There are so many in the community who come and reach out, it’s wonderful.”
The gift-wrapping kiosk is open regular mall hours from now through to Christmas Eve, when, Jans said, “things get a little crazy.”
For holiday shopping hours, visit www.shopsemiahmoo.com