Empty Stocking Fund: Meet Chilliwack's Barbara Caldwell, the unsung hero of Christmas

The retired elementary college instructor, who buys items all year long, has assembled greater than 300 packages this yr to donate

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After packing reward luggage for Chilliwack households for 40 years, Barbara Caldwell has it right down to a science.

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The retired elementary college instructor buys items all year long, after which bundles them up into luggage. She types the baggage into banana containers in line with gender — and 10 completely different age teams.

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This yr, she assembled over 300 packages.

“I attempt to do 30 for every age group, generally much less,” she stated. “Very often after they get to the 12- and 13-year-olds, it can rely on whether or not I used to be capable of finding books appropriate for them. That’s why I began gathering up board video games and jigsaw puzzles after I see them on sale.”

Caldwell donates the packages to Chilliwack Group Companies. The non-profit is one in all 26 group organizations that advantages from The Province’s 105-year-old Empty Stocking Fund. Donations from readers go to assist needy households within the Decrease Mainland. To donate, see the data following this story.

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Caldwell began donating when the principal at École Cheam Elementary, the place she was educating, prompt amassing objects for toy hampers as a school-wide mission.

“I acquired to considering that that’s a protracted college vacation when your loved ones doesn’t have a lot cash. At the moment, there have been two e book golf equipment that my college students have been ordering from. I used to be capable of get good offers on books. So I began placing packages collectively that at all times included a e book and different issues to do. From there, it simply grew.”

She began including toys as her record expanded to incorporate pre-schoolers and youngsters.

“I began getting dolls, and I knitted and crocheted so I’d make them additional clothes. Then I began in search of constructing units and automobile play units and further automobiles after they went on sale to steadiness out the dolls. It’s grown from there to the place I’ve acquired the cabinets all arrange and every part’s all sorted and saved in my main bedroom.”

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The 73-year-old, who retired in 2005 after educating for 30 years, retains her eye out for items all yr spherical.

“It’s a problem. I really like going right into a retailer and seeing ‘clearance.’ I’ll hit up Walmart in September after they have a very good deal on wax crayons, and Staples after they’ve completed promoting college provides as a result of they’ll knock issues down fairly a bit. I’ll get issues for the older youngsters then.”

She retains monitor of how a lot she spends, however doesn’t have a funds.

“I don’t pay too shut consideration to it. I don’t journey lengthy distances anymore or something like that. And I really like the problem of discovering the issues after which placing packages collectively. I’ve a listing that I at all times carry with me of sure issues I’m in search of to finish packages. I’ll choose a theme, like a well known character like Fancy Nancy or Winnie-the-Pooh. I’ve been noticing issues like that. This yr, I went overboard on Barbies that I had in my stash seeing that the film got here out.”

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An unsung hero, Caldwell hardly ever hears from those that profit from her largesse. However she says that she will get “plenty of suggestions from the folks in Group Companies. The individuals who put the baskets collectively actually respect that I do all that sorting for them. They usually know after they choose up one in all my packages, it’s full. Something that’s wanted is true there.”

The Province’s Empty Stocking Fund marketing campaign runs till Dec. 31.

Donations may be made by:

On-line 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 hyperlink: https://safe.e2rm.com/registrant/DonationPage.aspx?eventid=385682

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