Volunteer organization relies on Christmas ‘angels’ to provide services to community

NANAIMO – Angel donors flood Volunteer Nanaimo with Christmas spirit.

Rita Innamorati, who works with the Christmas Angel program at Volunteer Nanaimo, has been crying tears of joy in the days leading up to Christmas.

“We’ve been so busy with our Angel program it’s just been nuts,” Innamorati said.

The Christmas Angel program is just one of numerous donation and volunteer programs Volunteer Nanaimo operates, seasonally and throughout the year.

‘Angels’ are individuals or companies that are paired with local families facing economic hardship and are struggling through the Christmas season.

“We give [angels] a list of stuff and then they pick from the list and go and buy a gift for each of the children and they can do the parents if they want, maybe do a little bit of a food hamper,” Innamorati said.

More than 300 families were paired with angels this year. Recipient families are vetted by Volunteer Nanaimo, with help from social agencies the families are working with, to verify need. Some of the stories behind the requests can tug at heart strings, such as a small boy who said he didn’t have a wish list this Christmas because he knew his mother had no money to buy presents.

The program started in November and ran until Dec. 17. Requests came in from social agencies right up until the program’s final hour and included two last-minute families, one with four children and another with five children, that had little chance of being paired with angels.

“It’s been amazing,” Innamorati said. “I was just sitting here, not knowing what to do and at 4:31 [p.m.] the phone rang.”

Innamorati picked up the phone, even though it came in after closing time, in hopes it was an angel.

“And it was,” she said. “I just burst into tears.”

Spur of the moment support also came from local merchants who give unexpected breaks at the cash register, such as sporting goods store that heavily discounted a skateboard, making the total sale equal to the value of a gift card Innamorati presented, allowing her to include a bonus matching hoodie in a present for an 11-year-old boy. It was one of several examples of charitable acts she encountered dealing with local retailers and grocers.

Innamorati said one reason for such positive response is that local programs such as Christmas Angels allow people to be directly involved in deciding where and how their donations are used and feel a closer connection to the results of their giving.

The Christmas Angels program is over for this year, but Volunteer Nanaimo offers numerous programs and connections for people looking for ways to help out in the community. For more information, please visit www.volunteer

nanaimo.ca or call 250-758-7121.

Just Posted

Retailers say they’re ready for the ban on single-use plastic checkout bags in Nanaimo when it takes effect July 1. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Retailers report they’re ready for Nanaimo’s single-use checkout bag ban

Business operators say there’s been plenty of time to plan and prepare for bylaw that kicks in July 1

Nanaimo Fire Rescue crews on scene at a boat fire near the boat ramp at Long Lake on Sunday, June 20. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)
Boat burns up on Nanaimo’s Long Lake, man and child unhurt

Jet skiers attempt to put out fire by circling around to spray water on burning boat

Nanaimo Track and Field Club athletes are off to a fast start this season after no competition last season due to the pandemic. (News Bulletin file photo)
Nanaimo athletes back on track, starting with club competitions

Nanaimo Track and Field Club registration filled up

A conceptual rendering of a commercial plaza at 1130 Rocky Creek Road. (Town of Ladysmith image)
Commercial plaza in north end of Ladysmith passes public hearing

Councillors debate proposed land use at 1130 Rocky Creek Rd.

The Nanaimo sign at Maffeo Sutton Park could be hazardous for children, says letter writer. (News Bulletin file photo)
LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Nanaimo sign will cause falls

Children can’t resist climbing on sign, says letter writer

Nanaimo Fire Rescue crews on scene at a boat fire near the boat ramp at Long Lake on Sunday, June 20. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)
Boat burns up on Nanaimo’s Long Lake, man and child unhurt

Jet skiers attempt to put out fire by circling around to spray water on burning boat

FILE – Most lanes remain closed at the Peace Arch border crossing into the U.S. from Canada, where the shared border has been closed for nonessential travel in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. The restrictions at the border took effect March 21, while allowing trade and other travel deemed essential to continue. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Feds to issue update on border measures for fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents

Border with U.S. to remain closed to most until at least July 21

Robin Dutton, left, and Peter Sinclair are taking their mountain bikes and travelling down trails in the Mount Benson area June 19 as part of a 24-hour fundraiser benefiting Loaves and Fishes Community Food Bank. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)
Full-day mountain bike fundraiser gives financial support for Nanaimo food bank

Event part of Loaves and Fishes Community Food Bank’s Food 4 Summer campaign

A Lotto 6/49 ticket purchased in Parksville for the June 19, 2021 draw is a $3M winner. (Submitted photo)
Winning Lotto 6/49 ticket worth $3M purchased on Vancouver Island

Lottery prize winners have 52 weeks to claim jackpot

(V.I. Trail/Google Maps)
Now 90% complete, Vancouver Island trail forges new funding partnership

Victoria Foundation takes on Vancouver Island Trail Association; fund valued at $40,000

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

Most Read