With the tough economy, the term "banner year" isn't heard very often at community organizations that rely on donations.
But that's just how Stephen D'Souza with the Burnaby Christmas Bureau described this year's campaign.
"It was amazing, this community is amazing," he told the NOW this week.
Though the numbers are still being tallied, he's estimated they'll reach $198,000 in financial donations.
That's more than $10,000 shy of their goal of $210,000, but the shortfall is manageable, he says.
"We're below our goal, but only marginally - we set a very ambitious goal, and where we got to is an incredible year for us," he said. "The community really heard what we needed and came through."
Aside from financial donations, D'Souza said the toys that were given were "incredible."
"Wow - the volume of toys we received, and the quality of the toys we received, was just remarkable," he said. "A massive thank you to the community for that. They weren't just picking up the first thing they saw, but really thinking about what the kids would want and what we needed."
In all, the bureau helped 1,142 families or a total of 3,913 people.
It was a transitional year for the bureau: after years of offering food gift cards along with toys, they decided to refocus on their core services and goals.
"We changed the program this year in terms of what we were offering and then created some new partnerships with other (community agencies)," said D'Souza, "so we could then direct people to those other organizations for different services if that's what they needed."
For example, they teamed up with the Salvation Army for food hampers and Computers for Kids.
"That was really successful and helped us really focus on our goals. We're really focusing on looking at what we can do help people out of poverty, to make those transitions, and partnering (with other groups) has helped," he said.
He said that the renewed focus on helping to lift people out of poverty is a message that has resonated with the community.
"I think everyone sees the value in breaking those cycles, especially generational poverty, and giving people the support to do that," he said.
This year will be a transition of a different kind for the bureau: in the fall, Burnaby Community Connections - which runs the bureau, as well as a variety of other programs - will be moving into a long-awaited permanent location at Rosser Avenue and Lougheed Highway.
D'Souza said they'll be letting the community know when they're in that new space and hope to host an open house at that time.
"We really want to invite the people in, to have some of that community dialogue and talk about our services and what kinds of services people need," he said.
In the meantime, it's not too late to support the bureau and the work of Burnaby Community Connections generally.
To find out more, see www. burnabycommunityconnections. com.
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