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Burnaby students go into 'beast mode' to bring Christmas cheer to seniors

Burnaby students handcrafted 2,400 cards, drawings and poems in one week to put into holiday baskets for Operation Elf

“Elves” in the Burnaby school district went into “beast mode” recently to make sure hundreds of local seniors got hand-crafted cards, drawings and poems from local kids for the holidays.

Every year, the City of Burnaby’s citizen support services department delivers Christmas baskets and grocery orders to Burnaby seniors.

This year, as part of Operation Elf, the deliveries will include hand-crafted holiday messages created by Burnaby students from Kindergarten to Grade 12.

Operation Elf is a new partnership between citizen support services, the IAK (Intentional Acts of Kindness) Foundation and the Burnaby school district.

“Operation Elf is a great way to spread holiday cheer, especially for seniors who might not be able to get out and enjoy festive events in Burnaby this season,” Mayor Mike Hurley said in a city news release. “It’s great to see so many Burnaby students show such enthusiasm for the program.”

Operation Elf got help from about 2,000 students at 14 local schools, including Maywood Community School, Brentwood Park Elementary, Lochdale Community School, Windsor Elementary, Taylor Park Elementary, Stoney Creek Community School, South Slope Elementary, Suncrest Elementary, Forest Grove Elementary, Capitol Hill Elementary, Aubrey Elementary, Stride Avenue Community School, Burnaby Central Secondary and Burnaby North Secondary.

In a social media post with photos of students crafting some of the personalized Christmas cards, Burnaby North social studies teacher Liz Byrne said Operation Elf had gone into “beast mode” at her school to help create 2,400 cards in one week.

School board chair Jen Mezei also had good things to say about the new initiative.

“As trustees, one of the favourite parts of the job is a front-row seat to the impact that schools have on our community and how those connections have been maintained with a little creativity throughout the pandemic,” she said in the release. “Examples, such as this, of the leadership efforts of students to spread kindness and joy to seniors are truly heartwarming.”

Hurley and CUPE 23 union president Bruce Campbell  helped city staff deliver the first batch of Operation Elf cards and Christmas baskets on Dec. 9.

The Christmas basket program is sponsored by Parkland Burnaby Refinery, CUPE Local 23, Keith & Betty Beedie Foundation and MulberryPARC Residence.

The new initiative builds on the success of the Sunshine Notes program, which started in 2020 as a way to spread cheer to seniors who were isolating due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Follow Cornelia Naylor on Twitter @CorNaylor