Aunt Leah’s Christmas tree lots provide housing — and hope — for young moms.
The New West-based non-profit is once again raising funds for its programs at three tree lots in the Lower Mainland – Burnaby, Coquitlam and Vancouver. Tree sales are a major source of revenue for the housing and programs that Aunt Leah’s provides for vulnerable foster youth and young moms and children.
Derian, who asked that her surname not be published, was a teen in foster care, when she found herself pregnant at 15. No foster home wanted a mom with a baby, so her social worker recommended she move into Aunt Leah’s House, where she learned to budget, shop and cook, as well as how to look after a newborn baby.
“I was still a kid myself when I had my son,” she said in a news release. “Aunt Leah’s helped me learn how to take care of my baby and myself.”
After moving out on her own, Derian continued to receive support from Aunt Leah’s, through its Mom’s and Babies night, camping trips, BBQ nights, as well as support for schooling, housing, and other necessities of life. Derian and her nine-year-old son are planning to volunteer at the Christmas tree lot in Burnaby.
Aunt Leah’s believes that buying a fresh, locally sourced tree or volunteering at an one of its tree lots is the perfect way for folks to experience some holiday cheer and also support vulnerable foster youth and young moms and their children.
According to Aunt Leah’s, the pandemic, soaring inflation and sky-high rents in Vancouver have put more vulnerable foster youth and young single moms at risk of homelessness. The non-profit noted that studies show that 50 per cent of B.C. foster youth will experience homelessness, and young single moms have experienced even greater levels of housing and food insecurity during the pandemic.
Aunt Leah’s supports young moms in need in a number of ways, including providing housing, food hampers, living essentials and a supportive and compassionate adult to help them navigate these challenging times.
“Without support and housing these young moms can become homeless and be at risk of losing their children to the foster care system,” said Sarah Stewart, executive director of Aunt Leah’s. “We are trying to stop this cycle.”
Proceeds from Aunt Leah’s Christmas tree lots will go toward supporting the programs needed to successfully run housing projects, including Aunt Leah’s House in Burnaby.
“In addition to the current housing that Aunt Leah’s provides for young moms and children, Aunt Leah’s House in Burnaby is almost complete with four more families ready to move in January 2023,” said the news release. “Plans are also underway to build a laneway house on the premises which will provide more housing and activity space, giving Aunt Leah’s new capacity to provide affordable housing to moms from care and their babies.”
According to Aunt Leah’s, last year’s tree lots raised more than $649,000 for its housing and programs for foster youth and moms and babies – providing a lifeline for these young people during these difficult times.
Aunt Leah’s is in need of volunteers for its tree lots in Burnaby (All Saints Anglican Church at Royal Oak and Rumble), Coquitlam (Eagle Ridge United Church at 2813 Glen Dr.) and Vancouver (St. Stephens United Church at 54th and Granville Street). The non-profit notes that its Burnaby lot is in particular need of volunteers.
The Vancouver lot opens Thursday, Nov. 24 and the Burnaby and Coquitlam open on Friday, Nov. 25.
Volunteering is a great way individuals, families and organizations to get into the Christmas spirit by doing a fun, outdoor activity and at the same time supporting foster youth and moms, and babies,” said the news release. “It is also an opportunity for teenagers looking for volunteer hours to complete their graduation requirements.”
Aunt Leah's Trees needs volunteers to help unload Christmas trees on Mondays and Thursdays. That takes place from 10 a.m. to noon at the Granville location from Nov. 24 to Dec. 12.
Volunteers are needed for various positions at the three outdoor tree lots, including cashiers, customer service representatives and individuals who can safely lift 50 or more pounds. Individuals (along with friends and family) can register for as many or as few shifts as they like
To sign up, visit www.auntleahsorg/treelotsignup.