The Times Colonist Christmas Fund

Christmas is coming, but things will be a little different this year for many local charities that help people in need during the holiday season.

The Christmas Bureau, a central organizing agency for several groups, has disbanded. That means charities are now collecting their own applications from people who need assistance. In addition, the application forms are no longer being mailed out with provincial social-assistance cheques, so people seeking help from affected charities will have to get forms themselves.

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The annual Times Colonist Christmas Fund, about to enter its 54th year, is among the former Christmas Bureau charities adapting. As part of the process, the TC Fund is joining with a number of past bureau members to ensure that as many people as possible can be helped, and that duplication is avoided.

Longtime bureau volunteer Maureen Quested said people are bound to have questions and concerns as a result of the changes, but efforts are being made to allay fears.

"Some of the member agencies are compiling their own lists from clients they help, like the Mustard Seed and St. Vincent de Paul," she said. "For seasonal charities like the TC Fund and CFAX Santas Anonymous, it's a little bit harder."

No one should worry that charities won't be giving their usual service, Quested said.

"Yes, there are still Christmas programs in place. Yes, people will still be getting help."

Application forms can be picked up at the Times Colonist at 2621 Douglas St. from Monday to Friday between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. They are also available from other agencies, including the Burnside Gorge Community Association, CFAX Santas Anonymous, the Mustard Seed Food Bank, Our Place, Salvation Army Family Services, the Single Parent Resource Centre and the St. Vincent de Paul Society.

The deadline for application to the TC Fund is Nov. 26. The fund provides individuals and families with grocery vouchers, and children 17 and under with gift vouchers. Distribution is usually in the second and third weeks of December.

Last year's Times Colonist Christmas Fund brought in $236,144.62, which meant close to 2,200 households were helped.

jwbell@timescolonist.com

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