John McKay and Merv Hildebrandt lend a helping hand to organize donations that have come into the Mission Christmas Bureau office. / Kevin Mills Photo

John McKay and Merv Hildebrandt lend a helping hand to organize donations that have come into the Mission Christmas Bureau office. / Kevin Mills Photo

‘Kids need something under the tree’ say volunteers

Mission Christmas Bureau is now open for donations and registrations

The 2017 Mission Christmas Bureau campaign has begun, with a dedicated team of volunteers hard at work to help those who need it most.

Two of the longer serving volunteers are Merv Hildebrandt, who has been lending a hand for 13 years, and John McKay, 15 years.

The pair of seniors both say they got involved because they just wanted to help.

“After I retired in 2004, I needed something to do and I was interested in food hampers and the Christmas Bureau. I just like to help people,” said Hildebrandt.

While he spends more time at the food centre these days, Hildebrandt has always enjoyed the Christmas Bureau.

“I mostly work at the food centre now, helping people find what they need. I’ve done it (the Christmas Bureau) for quite a few years, and my back won’t

take it anymore.”

McKay, who volunteers at the bureau and the food centre, says more people are coming in for help.

“It seems to be getting busier. The need is more and more.”

McKay does a bit of everything at the Christmas Bureau. He takes in donations, helps pack up the hampers in time for Christmas and distributes them when people come to pick them up.

“I’m usually the only guy who can lift up the heavy ones. Nobody else can do it. I’m 62 years old and I’m lifting up weight,” McKay said.

“Sixty-two?” asked Hildebrandt. “You’re still a spring chicken,” said the 72-year-old.

While the two enjoy joking with each other, they both agree the bureau does an important job, one they both support.

“I like helping out people who are in need of help. I hate seeing people who have two jobs and still can’t afford to pay their bills,” said McKay, adding that the cost of living, the cost of food and rent is absolutely crazy.

“I don’t like to see people being hungry, especially kids… I hate to see kids go without something under the tree.”

While neither man wants or expects anything in return for their help, they say there are many moments of gratification.

“I’ve seen people come into the Christmas Bureau and get their hampers and they cry. They are so happy with what they got and they can’t say thank you enough,” McKay said.

Hildebrandt believes some people are embarrassed to come in, but most of them make the right choice.

McKay agrees.

“If you have kids, you have to put your pride aside and that’s what they do.”

Seeing how grateful people are is a better reward than money, or a pat on the back.

“It gives you a good feeling in your heart. You’ve helped somebody. Mission is one of the most generous communities in the Lower Mainland,” Hildebrandt said.

The Mission Christmas Bureau relies on volunteers to be successful, and Hildebrandt said more are welcome.

“We always need more volunteers, especially men. There are more women than men. So I challenge men to get off their butts and come in.”

“We do need more men,” McKay said. “I’m tired of lifting all the weight.”

About the Christmas Bureau:

Anyone needing help over the Christmas season can register for assistance. The store-front office is open for registration Monday to Friday, until Dec. 1, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The Christmas Bureau temporary office is located at Unit #142 (next to The Source) in the Junction Mall.

Donations can be dropped off at the store front Monday to Saturday or at Mission Community Services at 33179 Second Ave.