Special to The NEWS
Wendy Reimer remembers using white tissue paper as a child to wrap up gifts for people in need.
Her family would take whatever they could spare at Christmas time, wrap it, and then deliver it to their church for distribution.
“Back then people didn’t have much to give,” said Reimer, who is the outreach committee co-chair at Knox United Church. “They would bring a can of soup or a can of beans and put that under the tree.”
The tradition, called White Gift Sunday, has been carried on for many years at congregations within the United Church of Canada, as well other Christian denominations. According to the website of St. John’s United Church in New Brunswick, a minister’s wife initiated the idea in Ohio in 1904 to solve the problem of inequity of gifts given at a Sunday school Christmas party. Instead of focusing on receiving gifts, the focus would be on bringing gifts to Jesus which would in turn be shared with people around the world who didn’t have much. All the gifts would come wrapped in plain white paper, so that no one would know which was an expensive gift and which was a more modest one.
Reimer participated in White Gift Sunday as a child growing up in North Vancouver, and now she helps coordinate it at Knox United Church in Parksville. White Gift Sunday was Dec. 7 at Knox United Church this year. Church members brought new, unwrapped gifts for the SOS Caring for Kids at Christmas program, which will be used to stock the SOS Toy Shop, where low-income parents, guardians and grandparents in this area come to shop for their children for free.
To donate to the SOS Caring for Kids at Christmas program visit www.sosd69.com, call 250-248-2093 or drop by 245 West Hirst Ave. Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. This year, Knox United Church members accessed a list of gifts for teens which were identified as in-demand in the SOS Toy Shop.
“People were quite enthusiastic to help because they knew what kids needed,” said Reimer.
As a result, Reimer and her husband Don delivered bags and bags of gifts for teenagers to the SOS last week, including trendy hats and scarfs, Axe body products, gifts cards, and also gifts for younger children. “This will really help us give some great gift options to parents and caregivers with teenagers in the area,” said SOS Christmas Coordinator Renee Caulder.
The SOS is still collecting new, unwrapped gifts for the program, while also trying to raise $115,000 in cash in order to meet the needs of all local residents who registered in the Christmas program this year. Besides gifts for children, the SOS provides families and individuals with grocery store gift cards so they can look forward to a special meal over the holidays. “I think it’s great SOS does this,” said Reimer. “It’s so needed, and it’s just as hard for teens not to get anything at Christmas as it is for little kids.”