North Vancouver not-for-profit plans to hand out hundreds of surprise gifts over holidays

·3 min read

A North Vancouver not-for-profit is hoping to make the lives of hundreds of residents impacted by COVID-19 a little brighter this festive season with a surprise gift but is calling for a little bit of help to get the job done.

North Van Cares has just launched its Holiday Helpers initiative and is asking the community to nominate someone they know on the North Shore who is senior, immuno-suppressed, isolated, bereaved or just needs a little extra cheer this year, to receive a special gift pack.

The initiative has a lofty goal of handing out up to 300 presents to residents who are nominated.

"We’re specifically looking for those folks who would never ask for help but could use a little extra joy this season," Jacquie McCarnan, the founder of the not-for-profit organization, said.

"We all know people who give so much of themselves and never ask for anything. Those are the people we want to help."

She said seniors and immuno-suppressed folks who may not have family around to help out this holiday season are their main target.

"It’s not a charitable thing for the needy, it’s more a pick me up for people who just need a bit of joy," McCarnan said.

McCarnan launched North Van Cares in March when the pandemic first hit hard as a Shopping Buddies initiative to help seniors get groceries and prescriptions during quarantine.

“The reason I started North Van Cares is because my own parents, who live in Ontario, are 88 and 90, and they’ve never accessed social services and they wouldn’t even have a clue how to do that or how to get their groceries delivered,” McCarnan said.

She said as she thought about her own parents, she realised there must be people on the North Shore having similar issues and set out to help them.

From there the not-for-profit blossomed, and McCarnan has since created two T-Shirt campaigns, with nine North Shore neighbourhood designs, which have raised more than $2,000 to help support a variety of groups, including Backpack Buddies, North Shore Rescue, North Shore Black Bear Society, Neighbhourhood House, and the Greater Vancouver Food Bank. Profits from more recent T-shirt sales will also go towards the Holiday Helpers initiative.

All the Holiday Helpers gifts will be North Vancouver-inspired and include donations from the community. The gifts will also have a handmade card created by local students – with the surplus of cards set to be delivered to residents at seniors’ homes in the area for Christmas.

McCarnan said the initiative had already received a bundle of donations, so the gifts would “have really lovely surprises for so many.”

“There are so many people who are going to be so lonely these holidays because they’re not going to be able to have their families come and visit like in the past,” she said.

“I just thought, so what can we do to cheer them up?”

For anyone who’d like to contribute, the group is still accepting donations. A donation of just $20 means they can add another nominee to the list.

To nominate someone to receive a Holiday Helper’s gift pack go to Nominate a Neighbour.

Nominations close Dec. 15.

Elisia Seeber, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, North Shore News