For the Christmas season, 599 Surrey preschool and kindergarten students joined the 2,000 Wind and Tide Preschool youngsters 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 preschool and kindergarten students.
With 30 preschools, kindergartens and child development centres in Surrey, Langley and across the Lower Mainland, Cram is kept busy just running the operation with the help of Education Director Suzie Warneke.
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 UGM’s Gifts of Hope initiative, where each year her students assemble holiday hampers for families in need.
During the months of November and December, Wind & Tide School children were busy gathering food, picking out toys and gifts and assembling these carefully chosen items into Christmas hampers which UGM would deliver to low income families in Vancouver’s most disadvantaged neighbourhoods.
“Through the generosity of the children at Wind & Tide and other donors, we’ve been able to provide 200 hampers for families as well as some singles,” said Barb Atkins, Manager of UGM’s Women and Families Centre. “Each 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. These hampers, valued at $350, provide families with much needed relief during the holidays.”
In November, each school received a list of much-needed food items, as well as information about the gender, age, interests and hobbies of each family member. Then the students at Wind & Tide got to work, bringing donations from home, gathering food, carefully choosing toys and gifts and slowly watching the hampers fill up.
“It is quite amazing to witness the students experiencing the joy of giving to those in need,” said Warneke. “At age three and four, these children understand this. They see the importance of teamwork and how together they can make a difference.”
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 a number of years of great success, including 2011 when over 1,600 toys, gifts and gift cards were collected, the preschools decided to supply entire hampers to low-income families through UGM.
This past Christmas, the preschoolers supplied 56 families with hampers to get them through the holidays.
Warneke said that hampers are not only important to those who receive them, but also to those who give.
“Each year the families and children make this a priority. I see how this initiative impacts families and how grateful they are to teach their children how to give. The hope is that they go on to give in the future.”