Friends of the Families volunteer Kees Koster with a new friend from Myanmar. After seven years of helping

Friends in deed step down after helping 700 families

South Surrey/White Rock volunteer group dedicated seven years to helping struggling families.

After seven years of quietly lending struggling families a helping hand, a group of Peninsula volunteers are retiring from the task.

Lori Ishikawa of Friends of the Families said a lack of storage space for items collected for the families they help, along with the group’s aging members, are among key reasons for the decision reached last month.

But it was not made lightly, she noted.

“We loved it,” said Ishikawa, who founded Friends with Tammy Ritchie and Joe Sweeney. “All of us… it is sad to give it up, but I think it’s just time.”

Friends of the FamiliesFriends of the Families grew from a chat Ishikawa had with a man who came to White Rock City Hall – where she works in the bylaws and licensing department – to pay a ticket. The elementary principal shared with Ishikawa some of the challenges faced by the many immigrant families involved in his school, and she, in turn, shared the story with a group of her longtime friends, who had been wanting to adopt some families at Christmas.

The idea took on new life after the women got a look at what some of the recipient families were dealing with – from empty fridges and no beds to no toys for their children.

Over the years, recipients of Friends’ efforts have included new immigrants from countries such as Ethiopia, the Congo and Syria, as well as single moms and others who rely on Sources’ White Rock South Surrey Food Bank.

A well-known local homeless couple also benefited from the group’s kindness – Friends’ helped Roy Mercer and Darlene Fox find and move into the first real house they’d lived in in a decade, and then, when that arrangement ended sooner than expected, helped find them a second home.

“We have helped about 700 families in seven years,” Ishikawa said.

Friends’ core group also includes White Rock seniors Kees and June Koster, David Chesney (a White Rock city councillor) and Fraser Crinklaw.

Ishikawa was quick to emphasize that none of the work could’ve been done without the help of the community, and support from First United Church (which helped store donations) and Hallmark Carpets (which donated the use of a delivery truck).

“Everyone was so amazing… very, very generous.”

Still connected to many of those they have helped over the years, Ishikawa said she wouldn’t turn down a desperate appeal for help, but said accepting, storing and delivering donations is simply not an option any more.

She encouraged anyone with furniture or other items to donate to contact the Surrey-based Umoja Operation Compassion Society of B.C. Founders Edith and Amos Kambere may be reached at


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