A Family Who Chose Charity Over Gifts This Past Christmas

Published Mar 4, 2015 | Updated Oct 28, 2019

The first interview in the #FamiliesGiveBack series serves as an inspiration for families to consider community giving as a bonding activity. Read about how they supported the Surrey Food Bank's Tiny Bundles and Pre-K programs with their school-aged children.

We have so many AMAZING families in the Lower Mainland - families like yours, who work hard, do the best they can for their kids and balance it all with a good dose of fun. There's something else that Lower Mainland families are doing together that is inspiring and heartwarming: they're giving back. Highlighting their stories here is a pleasure - and you can follow #FamiliesGiveBack on Twitter for more ideas and conversation about this growing trend in how we are parenting. And if you, or a family you know, would like to share their story in this series, please email taslim(at) with #FamiliesGiveBack in the subject line.

The first family I interviewed wanted to simplify Christmas this past year (does that sound familiar?) and chose to do something really incredible instead of giving and receiving gifts within their immediate and extended family. Read on to find out what they did, why they did it, and what their kids thought about not receiving their normal amount of gifts this year. 

Taslim: Hi Janelle*! Thanks for agreeing to share your recent charitable Christmas experience with us. Which charity did you choose to support?

Janelle: Our family supported the Surrey Food Bank’s Tiny Bundles and Pre K 2-5 Programs. We wanted to support families with children since we were getting the kids involved.

(Photo Credit: The Surrey Food Bank)

Taslim: That's a lovely idea - the Food Bank is always in need, and they have such a large infant and child population that depends on them. What made you decide to support a charity instead of having a 'typical' Christmas?

Janelle: It was the very beginning of December. Christmas was approaching and I could feel the anxiety that this time of year can bring. I spoke to my husband about simplifying Christmas this year. Less about gifts and more about the spirit of the season. Doing fun things as a family seemed more important and memorable than the idea of buying more “stuff” that we do not really need.

We thought, instead of the usual gift giving it would be important to think of others in our community. It was important to bring the kids into the experience to teach them that not everyone has what we are fortunate to have. Understanding that some families do not have even the basics like food, clothing etc. At ages almost 7 and 8 we thought they would be better able to understand. We hoped this experience would make us all step back and be thankful for what we have and hopefully bring a little goodness to someone’s family.


We told relatives that we usually mail gifts to that this year we would be donating to our local food bank with the money we would have normally spent on exchanging gifts. None of our children really “need” anything. Often they do not even know what they “want”. That present from their Aunt seems so great when first opened but then often sits collecting dust or never gets put together again. Despite asking relatives to hold off on gifts, both our children had a wonderful Christmas and never complained about getting less.

When deciding that we were going to support a charity in the community for Christmas my husband called the Surrey Food Bank. We had heard that donations were down for the year. The Food Bank seemed like a good cause to choose. The idea of not having enough food and essentials for my children—I could not imagine what that would feel like. We also thought the kids would have a better understanding to help other kids.

Taslim: And so, what exactly did you guys do for these programs?


Janelle: We picked up the needed items listed on the website for the Tiny Bundles and Pre K Programs. It would have been easy to write a cheque and mail it off to the Food Bank but we decided that the kids would have a better understanding of helping by going to the store to pick out all the items and filling the cart themselves. They had to think of what the babies and children would like and need. During the shopping trip, the kids made comments such as “Let’s get this blanket because it is so soft.” Or “I had this toy when I was a baby." They selected the items that they would like while thinking of the children that would receive them. The kids came to realize that not everyone is as fortunate as them. Many families cannot afford even basic necessities.

(Photo Credit: The Surrey Food Bank)

Taslim: I love that the children were so involved in the shopping! Why did you as parents feel that this was important for the family to do jointly?

Janelle: We think it is important to give back to the community as a family because giving and thinking of others is a behaviour our children will learn from us. It’s like anything else—if they are not exposed to it how would they possibly know anything about it? Kids assume that everyone has what they have. This experience made them better understand that not all families are the same. We should be grateful for what we have. We should give to others. Hands-on learning is memorable; we cannot just talk about it. We all need reminders to appreciate what we have—not just the kids. Coming together as a family to give back to the community brought us closer too!

"It made me feel good to give stuff to people because then the families could be healthy." - Angelina*, age 7

(Photo Credit: The Surrey Food Bank)

Taslim: I think that's what's so beautiful about the whole thing. You spent time together as a family, doing something meaningful, and that type of lesson will probably stay with them for a long time. Is there anything else you would like to add about families giving back to the community?

Janelle: Giving back to the community makes us all step back to appreciate the things we have and people around us. Our lives get so busy. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves to think of others. More people should give back to the community and more often, whether it is time volunteered, items or money donated. It is just so expensive to live in our community. Every amount of charity counts. Christmas is a good time to give but charities need help all year long...

"I felt happy to make the kids feel good and have a nice Christmas. They should have what I have." - Tyler*, age 8

Taslim: Agreed! Giving back is always in season! Thanks again for your time and for sharing your experience with ChatterBlock readers!

*Names were changed at the request of the family to retain their privacy.

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