Empty Stocking Fund: A child of refugees, Jennifer Souvanvong has found a way to give back to Surrey Christmas Bureau

For 105 years, The Province’s Empty Stocking Fund has been dedicated to making the holidays brighter for B.C. residents who are less fortunate.

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As a child, Jennifer Souvanvong’s immigrant family discovered the magic of Christmas bureaus.

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Now, the mortgage broker is giving back.

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“It was later in life that I remembered going somewhere and picking up gifts, and then all of a sudden, I don’t know what it was, I just thought, ‘Hey, was there a donation place we went to?’ ”

She decided to do something about it. She began by sponsoring a family through the Surrey Christmas Bureau. Another time she asked for donations to be sent to the bureau instead of getting gifts for her birthday, which falls in December.

Then, a couple of years ago, she been organizing a toy drive at her office at Blue Pearl Mortgage.

“My office has jumped on-board. It became a competition.” Two teams in the office of 29 compete to see who can bring in the most toys.

Last year, she and some co-workers loaded up a few vehicles with their loot and dropped it off at the bureau’s toy depot.

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“When we got down there it was so heartwarming and amazing, with parents coming in with their kids and people coming in with donations.”

For 105 years, The Province’s Empty Stocking Fund has been dedicated to making the holidays brighter for B.C. residents who are less fortunate. With the generosity of our readers and supporters, the fund gives money to 26 B.C. community organizations, like the Surrey Christmas Bureau, that provide food hampers and gifts to children, needy families and singles.

Souvanvong’s parents fled the Vietnam War when they were in their late teens. Sponsored by a church, and not knowing any English, they landed in a small town in Alberta.

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Jennifer Souvanvong with Blue Pearl Mortgage members and donated toys in Surrey on Nov. 28. Souvanvong was once helped by the Surrey Christmas Bureau. Photo by Arlen Redekop /PNG

“We didn’t have a lot and I didn’t know any different,” said Souvanvong, the youngest of her three Canadian-born siblings. She grew up in Lacombe, Alta.

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“When we went down to the bureau there and picked out toys, I remember wanting to take them home. But we ended up getting them on Christmas. I remember how much of a difference it made, especially when other people were celebrating.”

Souvanvong now embraces Christmas. She had already begun preparing for this year’s when she talked to The Province in late November.

“As we speak my house is fully done up. I actually just went and bought some more Christmas decorations.”

Her husband is also from an immigrant family. He was five when he came to Canada with his parents from Laos.

“We’ve been together for 10 years. Now he’s fully into Christmas as well. We put up the tree and leave out stuff for Santa. We become big kids again.”

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Organizing the toy drive at her office takes some work, but it’s worth it, she says.

“I just look at my life as being so blessed in comparison to where I was. To give back where I can, that’s where it changed for me. And then wanting to do it not just on my own. You can get more individuals, especially those in the office, who don’t necessarily know the impact they can have. That’s why I wanted people to come down with me to the donation centre.”

The 2023 campaign runs until Dec. 31.

Donations can be made by:

Online at: https://theprovince.com/esf

By mail to: The Province Empty Stocking Fund

968 East Cordova St., Vancouver, B.C., V6A 1M6

By calling: 604-253-6911

2023 direct donation link: https://secure.e2rm.com/registrant/DonationPage.aspx?eventid=385682

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