For the past 21 years Stephen Trickett has been delivering toys, food and other donations to families in need across the Lower Mainland.
While he sounds a lot like one of Santa’s helpers, he’s actually helping struggling families year-round as a driver for the Salvation Army in Vancouver — one of 27 community organizations that count on donations from The Province’s Empty Stocking Fund, which launched its 97th fundraising year last week.
Christmas is one of Trickett’s favourite times of the year, because it’s when he helps deliver food hampers and toy gifts for the charity’s Christmas Assistance Program.
“It just warms your heart,” a modest Trickett told The Province. “To see the kids’ faces light up.”
And while most of Trickett’s work happens quietly behind-the-scenes at the Salvation Army, it certainly doesn’t go unnoticed.
Last year while making a routine toy pick-up at the Capilano Mall in North Vancouver, a woman came out of a nearby Tim Horton’s and insisted on buying him a cup of coffee, because she recognized him from a particularly difficult Christmas 10 years ago, when he dropped off toys and vouchers for her family.
“She just wanted to thank me for being there,” said Trickett, adding that she’s now back on her feet. “That felt really good.”
According to Patricia Cuff, spokeswoman for the Salvation Army in B.C., Vancouver Family Services helped out 1,083 families and delivered $115,000 worth of toys to kids across the city last year, as part of its Christmas Assistance Program.
“Without the commitment of the employees on the frontline we could not experience and serve as many people that we do in our communities,” said Cuff. “Loyal employees like Stephen make such a difference –- both to the organization, but to the people we serve.”
“He has a compassionate heart – he wants to do what he is doing. And that is very evident by his demeanour and how he approaches people.”
According to Trickett, he’s passionate about what he does simply because he has “a heart for the down and out.”
“Before I started working here I was down and out for a while,” he said. “I was struggling.”
Before he landed his job with the charity two decades ago, he was looking for work for about five years. He was living in a “small little basement suite” in Vancouver’s east end and getting by with parttime work as an ImPark attendant, with a welfare cheque filling in the gaps.
Both his parents are retired officers with the Salvataion Army, so he knew the charity was “always there.” He applied, got the job and “the rest is history.”
“(My life has) changed, I have my own place, I have my wife and daughter,” said Trickett.
Last year, The Province’s Empty Stocking Fund raised nearly $348,000 from generous Province readers, corporate sponsors and local business and community supporters. To donate to this year’s effort, visit theprovince.com/esf, make a deposit at participating HSBC and Scotiabank branches, or contribute in person at the Province Promotions Desk, or call 1-800-805-1185. The Province covers all administrative costs so that every dollar donated goes directly to the fund’s beneficiaries.
–By Larissa Cahute – The Province – Empty Stocking Fund