After over 1,000 bids from 200-plus bidders, this year’s Richmond Christmas Fund online auction has raised $46,611. Last year the auction raised $35,775.
While this year’s total was a record for the online format, that setting doesn’t generate the same level of excitement—and possible bidding wars—as the usual in-person event, according to Ed Gavsie, president of Richmond Cares, Richmond Gives (which annually operates the fund). But with pandemic-related restrictions continuing, the decision was made in September to go ahead with a second online auction.
The most popular items this year were restaurant gift certificates, all of which went for full face value or very close to it. A $100 credit for Steveston’s Little Mexico Cantina actually went for 10 per cent above face value, Gavsie adds. The highest single-value bid was $6,000 for a “Live Like a Billionaire” package, including a lavish stay at the city’s new Versante Hotel.
As they do every year, Richmond community members stepped up to help make Christmas a little happier for their neighbours. With the exception of a small B.C. gaming grant, all the other donations are purely a result of selfless giving.
“There’s been no reluctance on behalf of the Richmond community to support those people in need,” Gavsie says. “That’s why we use the cutline in the logo: ‘Community is like family.’ I think it’s very apropos for the Christmas Fund program.”
And local businesses also stepped up. Summit Customs Brokers joined with Manitoulin Transport to make a $10,000 donation, as well as sponsoring the dunk tank where Richmond RCMP Chief Superintendent Will Ng took the plunge late last month. The seventh annual RCMP toy drive more than doubled previous years’ cash donation totals, in addition to filling a cube van with about 1.5 tonnes of toys.
Herbaland, Platinum Pro-Claim, TD Bank and the Richmond Auto Mall are among this year’s “Angel Donors,” giving $10,000 or more apiece. Other donors include Sage, which contributed $8,500 as well as sports equipment and staff time; and the Steveston Merchants Association, which along with community member Doug Harder raised a record $1,665 at the Christmas Classic Car Cruise.
The annual fund is supported by a team of vital volunteers who help with registration, prepare packages for families, set up and take down the toy room, and transport toys—among many other tasks. The volunteer group includes high school students who help sort toy donations after school.
In all, over 2,300 people were helped this year, with the final total forthcoming. Among the many programs offered by Richmond Cares, Richmond Gives, Gavsie finds the Christmas Fund the most satisfying.
“When we do the distributions, I get to see the parents and get the thanks. It’s more than just thanks—it’s total gratitude from people who are saying ‘Without this program my kids wouldn’t be getting toys,’ or ‘Without this Christmas Fund my family couldn’t afford to put together a nice Christmas meal.’ That gives me great satisfaction, to be able to provide help for all the people who need help in our community.”
This year’s Christmas Fund also marks the last for chair Wayne Duzita, who leaves his post after 15 years. Longtime MLA and seasoned community leader Linda Reid will take over next year, when Gavsie hopes the team can return to its usual in-person registration and distribution process. The Christmas Fund will also celebrate 90 years of giving in 2022.
Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Richmond Sentinel