A Christmas tradition that aims to take some of the stress out of the season for harried shoppers – and for those who simply don’t enjoy one particular element of it – is in full swing at Semiahmoo Shopping Centre.
The by-donation gift-wrapping booth kicked into gear on Nov. 17, bursting with colourful ribbons and an array of festive papers for volunteers to work their magic with, all while raising funds for the Canadian Cancer Society.
Thursday morning, Louise Shaw, Winkie Steele and Liz Stone were busy measuring, cutting, taping and adding a personal touch to a bundle of 18 items dropped off en masse by one “so organized” customer. The packages weren’t the first, and certainly won’t be the last, that the trio and their fellow volunteers tackle before the booth wraps up operations on Christmas Eve.
Last year, 2,977 gifts were wrapped over the weeks that the service was offered, with volunteers pitching in a total of 1,255.5 hours to make it all happen.
In addition to lightening the load for many, more than $10,000 was raised for the cancer society.
Combined, Shaw, Steele and Stone have volunteered at the booth for nearly 20 Christmas seasons, with each sparked to get involved by either seeing other volunteers in action, or hearing about it from a friend.
“Just friends that were doing it and I wanted to jump on board,” Shaw said of why she signed up, describing it as an opportunity to give back to community.
The cause is also close to each of their hearts.
Stone began canvassing for the Canadian Cancer Society when she was about 15 years old. Shaw said she personally knows 55 women who have had breast cancer, including her older sister. And for Steele, the disease hit both of her brothers, as well as her dad.
“He didn’t make it,” she said of her dad.
The women said the majority of people who drop off gifts for wrapping “get” the bigger picture, of where the donations for the service are going, and most “are pretty generous.”
Shaw noted the shopping centre is one of the few that still operate the wrapping booth by donation.
Co-ordinator Brenda Mackenzie said for many of those who sign up to help, the weekly shift also becomes a social affair; a place where new friendships are forged.
“You get to know people right away,” she said. “It’s good for people who are new to the community.”
Stone noted that returning to the booth every year is not just a tradition for volunteers, either.
“We’ve got one family, they come in every year with a ton (of gifts). She’s got tags already done,” Stone said.
“We have a couple of those,” she added. “Very, very generous at the end of it because we’ve saved them so much time.”
An important point to know for those who do plan to use the gift-wrapping booth is that it is same-day service only – packages must be picked up by the end of the day they are dropped off, as there is no overnight storage available.
For anyone interested in volunteering, there are still a few shifts available. Email firstname.lastname@example.org