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Shop Small and Give Back This Holiday Season



This year has been tough for many. Despite the challenges, acts of compassion and generosity can bring together the global community. With this holiday season different than those before, it is important to remember the world’s shared humanity and help make the season brighter.

For those who will be celebrating this season and are looking for gifts that give back, UNICEF Market offers an online collection of handcrafted gifts made by artisans from around the world. Supporting these small businesses helps both the artisans – many of whom are dealing with economic hardship because of the pandemic – and the lifesaving mission of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

The platform brings business to artists like Mirian Otzin from Central America, who began weaving using Mayan techniques with her mother as a hobby at the age of 8. Otzin worked for a female weavers organization for 16 years before becoming an entrepreneur.

“This is something I’m grateful to UNICEF Market for because for me and many artists like me, this is our only source of income,” she said. “Thanks to its system and the space it’s opened up for artisan women like me, we still have hope that we can overcome this pandemic. During these hardships, we’re still crafting in our home-based workshops, making sure we’re following all the health protocols set by our health departments and the platform’s rules that we must follow to keep everyone safe.”

Featuring an array of woven goods, Otzin’s profile includes table linens, cushion covers and bags. In addition to Otzin, more than 2,000 artisans are empowered on the platform.

These entrepreneurs share their talents, selling their handcrafted items for homes and gardens, jewelry and more, such as reclaimed stone flowerpots and onyx and marble chess sets from Mexico, teakwood cutting boards from Thailand, silk tapestries from Ghana and knit blankets from India.

A portion of gifts’ proceeds also help fund lifesaving programs such as nutrition, sanitation, education and more in the more than 190 countries where UNICEF works.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic started, the organization’s 13,000 staffers have reached 250 million children with distance-based learning and 2.88 billion people with virus prevention information, as well as delivering more than 234 million units of personal protective equipment, hospital equipment and diagnostic tests to frontline workers globally.

As the largest vaccine buyer in the world, the organization is set to lead the procurement and supply of COVID-19 vaccines in the world’s biggest and fastest operation of its kind.

Share the best of this season by visiting here.

Surrey604 is an online magazine and media outlet based in Surrey, BC. Through writing, video, photography, and social media, we secure an intimate reach to the public. We promote local events and causes.

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Surrey City Councillor Linda Annis and her dog Randi (foreground) bring toy donations to Saverio Lattanzio of the Surrey Firefighters Association (holding toy) and fellow firefighters.

“Make this Christmas special for Surrey families”

The Surrey Fire Fighters Association and the Surrey Christmas Bureau hope everyone will join them in a six-day toy drive to help fill its toy shelves in time for Christmas.

Each year, the Surrey Christmas Bureau helps thousands of local families by providing toys for Surrey kids. Saverio Lattanzio of the Surrey Firefighters Association said his members are ready to accept toy donations at each of Surrey’s neighbourhood fire halls from November 25-30.

“Surrey’s firefighters are looking forward to helping our community fill the Christmas Bureau’s shelves and delivering some Christmas surprises for local kids who might miss out if we all don’t help out this year,” said Lattanzio. “Through our various community programs, our firefighters know just how generous Surrey residents are throughout the year. I know our community will make this special toy drive equally successful as we all pitch in for the kids and their families. These are our neighbours and I know we can all make a difference for them this Christmas. If we do this together, we can make sure 2020 ends on a high note for so many families.”

“We’re expecting even more families this year,” added Lisa Werring, Executive Director of the Surrey Christmas Bureau. “So many families are really feeling the economic impact of the COVID virus and they’re counting on our help, so this special toy drive will really help us fill our shelves and make Christmas special for a lot of Surrey children. We’re looking for unwrapped toys for boys and girls of all ages, from infants to age 18. Then, once we’ve filled our shelves, we invite registered families to come and shop for toys for their children.”

“It’s been a particularly tough year for so many of our Surrey families,” noted Councillor Linda Annis, who supports the drive and challenges all city councillors and residents to bring a toy to their local fire hall before the end of the month. “With COVID-19 and the tough economic times facing so many people right across our community, we’re hoping Surrey will step up and help its Christmas Bureau fill its toy shelves by dropping off a toy at their nearest Surrey fire hall anytime from now until the 30th.”

Annis adds she hopes families will drive by and donate together so that it’s a family affair.

“We live in an incredible community with so much to be thankful for,” explained Annis. “This is one of those events and times when we can really help other Surrey families who are feeling the pinch because of COVID and the tough times it has delivered. It’s also a chance to show children how good it feels to help our neighbours.”

For more information about the Surrey Christmas Bureau visit online at

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Surrey Homelessness & Housing Society announces $3.9 Million grant to the City of Surrey to support 3 major capital housing projects



Surrey, BC – The Surrey Homelessness & Housing Society (SHHS) has granted the City of Surrey $3.9 Million to support three capital projects with long-term impact. Funding will cover renovation costs and long-term leases to support the growing needs of people experiencing homelessness, or who are at risk of homelessness in Surrey.

“We have been moving quickly to provide for the urgent needs of our residents as a result of the pandemic, but it is important that we also balance this with investments that ensure our long-term needs are addressed,” said Councillor Laurie Guerra, President of the Surrey Homelessness and Housing Society. “These funds will transition people out of homelessness in areas where it is needed most, as we continue to work towards our vision of eradicating homelessness in our City.”

The responsive grant will be distributed over 10 years to support the following capital projects:

The Olive Branch Shelter – 10732 City Parkway

The Olive Brand Shelter will provide 46 beds for men and women, with the intention of accommodating those who are currently living in the Emergency Response Centre (ERC) at the North Surrey Recreation Centre.

SHHS will cover costs of the renovation and lease for a 5-year period, so residents will remain sheltered. The Olive Branch Shelter welcomed guests on November 16, 2020.

The Cove Shelter – 10607 King George Boulevard

Providing 42 shelter beds for men and women, the SHHS grant will cover costs of the renovation and lease for a 3-year period. The opening of this shelter in November 2019 enabled individuals living in an outdoor encampment to move indoors and into shelter.

Newton Modular Housing Project – 13620 80 Avenue

SHHS will cover the costs of the lease for a 10-year period, providing 40 supportive housing units for men and women. This is part of the Province’s commitment to develop 250 new modular supportive housing units on five sites in Surrey. Completion is expected in May 2021.

As we head into colder months, the City of Surrey and SHHS want to remind residents of Surrey’s participation in the Provincial Extreme Weather Response (EWR) program run by BC Housing. As a result of the pandemic, shelters are following the Covid-19 safety protocols, including physical distancing.

When an Extreme Weather Response Alert is announced, to date, the following overnight shelter locations will be available in Surrey:

Nightshift Ministries (10635 King George Blvd) provides shelter for women, from 9pm to 7am.

PCRS (10453 Whalley Blvd.) provides youth, aged 13 to 21 years, shelter from 8pm to 8am.

Fleetwood Church (9165 160th Street) provides shelter for men and women from 8pm to 7am.

Shamai House (13327 100A Avenue) provides shelter for women, from 8pm to 7am.

The City is working closely with BC Housing and Fraser Health to identify additional locations for overnight shelters. An update will be provided soon.

Additionally, the following shelter locations are open every night, regardless of weather conditions, until March 31, 2021:

Pacific Community Church (5337 180th Street) offers men and women shelter from 10pm to 7am.

Peace Portal Church (15128 27B Ave.) offers shelter for men and women from 8pm to 7am.

About the Provincial EWR Program

The Provincial EWR Program is intended to provide time-limited, temporary, overnight shelter spaces. EWR sites open in response to inclement weather events during which the health and safety of homeless people living outside is at risk. Since 2005, BC Housing has contracted the Homelessness Services Association of BC to manage the EWR program in Vancouver and Surrey.

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Surrey Homelessness & Housing Society Grants $600,000 for Local COVID-19 Response



Councillor Laurie Guerra, President of the Surrey Homelessness and Housing Society.

Surrey, BC – The Surrey Homelessness & Housing Society (SHHS) has granted $350,000 in funding to 11 projects to implement food programs, purchase safety equipment, create homes and improve housing. The swift response addresses the emerging needs of people experiencing homelessness, or who are at risk of homelessness in Surrey related to impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The investment comes on the heels of $250,000 in grants earlier this spring, which provided 19 projects funding to support charitable organizations deploy food programs, purchase emergency equipment and supplies, and bolster staff capacity.

“The pandemic has put unprecedented pressure on charitable organizations providing vital services for Surrey’s most vulnerable,” said Councillor Laurie Guerra, President of the Surrey Homelessness and Housing Society.

“This funding will ensure that we can continue to address the growing need for food programs, emergency supplies and strengthen operations both now and into the new year.”

A total of $350,000 in grants were awarded to the following organizations:

  • Afro-Canadian Positive Network Society of BC
  • Atira Women’s Resource Society
  • Elizabeth Fry Society of Greater Vancouver
  • Fraser Region Aboriginal Friendship Centre Association
  • Fraserside Community Services Society
  • Lookout Housing and Health Society
  • Nightshift Street Ministries
  • Pacific Community Resources Society
  • Phoenix Drug & Alcohol Recovery and Education Society
  • SOS Children’s Village of BC
  • Sources Community Resources Society

Learn more about the Surrey Homelessness and Housing Society here.

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Fruiticana Raises $100,000 For Surrey Hospitals Foundation’s Children’s Health Centre Campaign



Photo: Fruiticana, one of Western Canada’s largest grocery chains,
has raised $100,000 for the Surrey Hospitals Foundation’s Children’s Health Centre renewal campaign. (From left) Puneet Dhillon, Community Liaison Coordinator, Surrey Hospitals Foundation; Harp Dhillon, Vice Chair, SHF Board of Directors; Sonia Virk, Director, SHF Board of Directors; Tony Singh, President, Fruiticana; Azra Hussain, Chief Operating Officer, Surrey Hospitals Foundation; Don Hickling , Vice President, Leadership Giving, Surrey Hospitals Foundation

Surrey, B.C. (October 23, 2020) – Fruiticana, one of Western Canada’s largest grocery chains, has raised $100,000 for the Surrey Hospitals Foundation’s Children’s Health Centre renewal campaign. Fruiticana raised the money from two in-store fundraising campaigns throughout the year in celebration of Diwali and Vaisakhi. A cheque presentation was held yesterday at the Fruiticana headquarters in Surrey.

As one of the Foundation’s first Community Champions, Fruiticana has continued to give generously to the Foundation’s fundraising campaigns. The Community Champions program was launched in 2019 to spark interest amongst philanthropic businesses who are looking for creative ways to give back to their community.

The Children’s Health Centre at Surrey Memorial Hospital (SMH) is the only health facility in the Fraser Health region dedicated to children’s health and paediatric emergencies, including children’s surgery and cancer programs. SMH has the region’s only children’s emergency department, one of only two in British Columbia. The Children’s Health Centre treats 43 per cent of B.C.’s children who reside in the Fraser Health region, and treated 46,000 children in 2019.

The Foundation is working with the community to raise $6 million to transform the Children’s Health Centre, to add and expand new clinics and services including Neurology, Cardiology & Nephrology (kidney).

About Surrey Hospitals Foundation:

Surrey Hospitals Foundation is the largest non-government funder of health care for families in Surrey and surrounding Fraser Valley communities. The Foundation supports the major health facilities in the region, Surrey Memorial Hospital (SMH) and Jim Pattison Outpatient Care and Surgery Centre (JPOCSC), as well as numerous specialized programs for newborns, children, adults and seniors.

The Foundation invests in the future of health care by funding innovative research in Surrey that can lead to medical breakthroughs.

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Community comes together to ease food insecurity concerns for newcomers



DIVERSEcity Newcomer Food Hamper program in Surrey launches with support from partner organizations

Food insecurity remains a significant concern during COVID-19. DIVERSEcity’s Newcomer Food Hamper program, generously supported by several partner organizations in Surrey, is trying to help by distributing food hampers to low-income families in Surrey.

With $35,000 from the United Way’s Local Love Food Hub funding, DIVERSEcity’s Newcomer Food Hub is working in partnership with the Surrey Urban Farmers Market ordering produce from the market, paid for through the Farmer’s Market Nutrition Coupon Program). The fresh produce is then organized into hampers, along with additional food supplied from Sources Food Hub.

The hampers are then put together by DIVERSEcity staff and volunteers in partnership with Seeds of Change, working (physically distanced!) from their City of Surrey-sponsored location, the City Centre parkade. (Seeds of Change is supporting several food hubs across Surrey through United Way funding.)

Staff and volunteers came together Saturday, August 8, to sort, fill and distribute hampers. The group was happy but dedicated in their efforts, as they worked hard all morning, despite the rainy weather. Serious co-ordination was needed to ensure each hamper was filled correctly, including abiding by any food restrictions the clients may have.

Leo Ramirez, DIVERSEcity’s Community Kitchen Coordinator, who is organizing DIVERSEcity’s efforts, says, “I love that this is a group effort supporting the community. We are thankful to the many organizations, volunteers and staff that come together to make this work.”

One of those on the front lines was Surrey Urban Farmers Market market manager Anna Hall, who was also grateful to all the partners working together for this important initiative. She explained, “This food hub ensures that these families continue to get the fresh produce and food that they need every week.”

While most food hampers are delivered to families directly, some clients did stop by on Saturday to pick theirs up personally. Their smiling faces and gratitude were just another reminder of how important the team’s efforts were. The food hamper program launched July 25 and will continue to run for 10 to 12 weeks; about 50 hampers have already been sorted and distributed to low-income families, seniors and pregnant women.

“It’s been really valuable learning about how to build good partnerships in food access and food security work,” says Fiona Stevenson, manager of Volunteer & Community Programs, DIVERSEcity. “By partnering with Seeds of Change, we have access to the temporary site in the City Centre parkade each week, and we are also able to get additional items of recovered food from Sources Food Hub to add to all the hampers.

This support through the City of Surrey and Seeds of Change and Surrey Urban Farmers Market has been instrumental to venue, logistics, food access, permissions, staffing and more.” For more information, see or contact

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