There are many lessons learned at Parkcrest Children's Centre in Burnaby.
The children there learn their A, B, C's and 1, 2, 3's; they learn how to hold a crayon, and how to wash their hands before snack.
But for the next few weeks, they'll be learning some special lessons about sharing, generosity and kindness.
For the third year in a row, the preschool and out-of-school care centre is participating in the Burnaby Christmas Bureau's 'Angel Project', which helps bring in toy donations for the bureau's toy room for children from low-income families.
"We have a very, very generous community here," said preschool teacher Teri Guglielmi.
Each year, she explained, children would excitedly bring in holiday gifts for their teachers; a few years ago, feeling overwhelmed by all the presents, Guglielmi suggested an alternative: the children
would be encouraged to make their own simple handmade cards for their teachers and, in lieu of spending money on the gifts, the school could participate in the Angel Project.
So far, it's been a big hit. "We love getting those cards from the children -that's better than any gift for us," she said. "And everyone gets so involved and excited with the angels."
The school sets up a Christmas Tree in late November, decorating it with the 100 Angel Cards they get from the bureau. Each one has the gender and age of one child; the parents and students can then choose one or more cards and purchase a toy or gift appropriate for that child.
"The families here have been amazing - we get 100 cards and sometimes we get 130 or 140 gifts coming in," she said.
Those are all picked up prior to Christmas by the bureau and sorted in the toy room, where low-income families who have registered with the bureau are able to come in and select age-appropriate choices for their own children.
The school also runs a food bank drive at the same time.
"The children get so excited. Some people think children this age don't get it yet, but they do - even with young children it starts with the 'I wants' and this is a wonderful way to look at that and learn about sharing," she said.
Guglielmi has seen firsthand the benefits of being involved with the bureau.
"I've done it with my kids when they were little and they're teenagers now - and I just think it's so important to start now, when they're young," she said.
She adds that being part of the program has been both easy and rewarding, and said she'd like to see other educational and youth organizations get involved this year.
"I would love to put out a challenge to other preschools and daycares and even elementary schools," she said. "Most teachers would be happy to have that teacher gift they often get at Christmas time be re-directed into something like this."
Local groups, businesses and organizations can participate in the Angel Project this year by calling the bureau at 604-299-5778.
Participating groups can request any number of cards; employees or group members are then encouraged to "be an angel" by choosing a card and buying a gift (minimum value $25) appropriate for the age and gender indicated on that card.
Low-income families in Burnaby are now able to register at the bureau's main temporary location in Brentwood Town Centre, and at two satellite locations. This year, the bureau will not be giving out grocery gift cards.
The Brentwood centre office and toy room (located on the lower level, near the Sears mall entrance) will be open Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The satellite locations include Cameron Recreation Centre on Mondays from 9: 30 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Eastburn Community Centre (the old library) on Wednesdays from 9: 30 a.m. until 4 p.m.
Registrants will need to have a current income assistance cheque stub or two current pay cheque or employment insurance stubs, child tax benefit information or Care Card or birth certificates for each child, and proof of residency (phone bill, tenancy agreement, etc.) Those who don't have cheque stubs can bring their 2011 T1 general and 2011 notice of assessment. Additional paperwork may be required for those new to Canada and those on student loans.
See www.burnabycommunityconnections.com for full details.
Anyone interested in helping the bureau this year can do so in a variety of ways: through financial or toy donations donations, through the angel project, through family sponsorship, or through participating in one of a number of upcoming fundraising events. Keep an eye on the Burnaby NOW for more details on all of these efforts in the coming weeks.
FIND THE BURNABY CHRISTMAS BUREAU
? In person: find the Christmas Bureau returns to Brentwood Town Centre this year, with a temporary office and toy room location near the Sears mall entrance. It's open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday to Friday, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays.
? Website: get all the information about the bureau online at www.burnabycommunityconnections.com. ? By phone: Want to talk to someone about registration, signing up for the angel project or make a toy donation? Call 604-299-5778.
? On Twitter: Stay connected all the time with the bureau online by following them @BurnabyConnect.