From the outside looking in, the Burnaby Christmas Bureau is a well organized, smooth-running operation this time of year.
Low-income families come in starting in November to get registered, storage shelves start filling up with toy donations, groups phone up to become sponsors and, by Christmas, plenty of cheer and generosity has been dispensed.
But the two-month rush between Nov. 1 and the holidays is an increasingly frantic time for the bureau as they work through the families - with more coming each year - hoping to register, and as they work to raise enough money and toys to help everyone who needs it.
Without volunteers, it would likely be an insurmountable task.
Volunteers with the bureau do everything from tidying the toy room, to helping families find what they need for their children, to serving as drivers to bring back toy donations from drop-boxes around the city.
They also help with the senior hamper program, administrative tasks and a variety of other jobs that need doing throughout the season.
For many, it becomes an annual tradition and a big part of celebrating the holiday season.
Darcy O'Shea with the Burnaby Power Squadron (a division of the Canadian Power and Sail Squadron, a non-profit group aimed at teaching safe boating) told the NOW that his group has been lending a hand for almost a decade.
"This year coming up, I think, is our eighth," he said. "My wife and I had been donating for a long time and then I found out that they took volunteers at the Christmas season."
O'Shea said he immediately thought of his fellow Power Squadron members.
"Our group is full of people who are happy to volunteer and step forward, and we had developed a theme of giving back to the community with different (activities)."
It worked out well, he says.
"As soon as we did it that first year, we were hooked," he said.
The group works in the toy distribution room in the days leading up to Christmas. A volunteer works with a parent to take them through the toy area, finding what they need and making sure the process goes smoothly.
"Some of them come in, and it's one child they're looking for gifts for - some, it's more. We do what we can to help them find what they need."
O'Shea says it's a pleasure to participate and see the impact on the parents, for whom the season can be particularly stressful.
"It's always a good feeling when we take people through and they're just pleasantly surprised and stunned at what's there for them. It makes you really realize the value of what the (bureau) is doing," he said.
He said he'd encourage more people to get out and volunteer this year.
"Because of what they do, they're able to attract volunteers who want to be part of that at Christmas - but there's always more help needed. Step forward and give it a try."
Those interested in finding out more about the variety of volunteer opportunities, or the ways to help the bureau through donations, can find more at www.burnabycommunityconnections.com