Aunt Leah’s tree lot celebrates 25 years in Vancouver

The annual Christmas tree lots open Nov. 21 and volunteers are needed

It’s been 25 years since the opening of the first Aunt Leah’s Christmas Tree lot on Granville Street and 54th Avenue in Vancouver.

Since then, the initiative, which is the major fundraiser for the charity that helps kids in, and aging out of, the foster care system, has expanded to include six locations throughout Metro Vancouver. And with just days to go until the tree lots open for the season on Nov. 21, Aunt Leah’s is looking for hundreds of volunteers to help out.

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“Each year it’s an honour to bring together such a large and diverse community of volunteers to support foster kids, moms and babies at our Christmas Tree Lots,” Hope Rayson, volunteer coordinator, said in a press release. “We have students, individuals and groups signing up to help out.

“This year is particularly special as it’s our 25th anniversary, and we now have three generations of families who have come together to help make the tree lot the success that it is.”

It is estimated that half of young people in B.C.’s foster care system will experience homelessness. For the past 30 years, Aunt Leah’s has been aiming to provide family-like support that includes housing, financial help, life skills and emotional care for young adults aging out of foster care. As well, they work with young mothers at risk of having their children put in foster care to give them the skills to be able to keep their babies out of the system.

“Currently, B.C.’s foster care system is not only a pipeline into future homelessness, but also a pipeline from and back to itself, due to early and unplanned pregnancies,” said Sarah Stewart, Aunt Leah’s executive director. “Aunt Leah’s has responded to this crisis by helping young women in need — who we know can succeed when surrounded by supportive allies and resources — thus preventing another generation of children and babies from entering the system.”

The organization started selling Christmas trees in the 1990s when government funding was cut. It turned into a viable social enterprise and sales have continued to grow every year, and it has become a holiday tradition for many Metro Vancouver families.

There are three locations in Vancouver, as well as lots in North Vancouver, Coquitlam and Burnaby.

The lots will be open from Nov. 21 until Dec. 23, or until supplies last.

For locations, or to pre-order a tree online, visit auntleahs.org/social-enterprise/tree-lots.

To volunteer, sign up online at auntleahs.org/treelotsignup, or contact Hope Rayson at 604-525-1204 (ext. 252) or email hrayson@auntleahs.org.

@JessicaEKerr

jkerr@vancourier.com

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