Tammy Monroe is in the spirit of giving this Christmas. While many people focus on material gifts for family and close friends, she focuses on giving back to an organization that supported her like a family should. In a sense she is giving to someone she cares deeply for, as it was the team at Aunt Leah’s Place that helped her get on her feet.
Almost two decades ago she was a teen mom struggling to find a place to live, while taking care of her baby boy. After years of bouncing from foster home to foster home she eventually was kicked out, feeling helpless as a pregnant teen. It was at this time that she found herself in the helping hands of Aunt Leah’s.
“Aunt Leah’s has been like an extended family to me and my brother. They taught me how to take care of my baby and myself.”
Gale Stewart, founder and Executive Director of Aunt Leah’s Place
To express her gratitude for the organization she gives back to Aunt Leah’s by volunteering at their Christmas tree lot every year.
Last year, the lots collectively sold over $150,000 worth of top quality, fresh cut trees, all of which went directly to Aunt Leah’s Place. The money is used to pay for housing and programs to support vulnerable new moms and children that are nearing the maximum age for the foster-care system. At a comparable price to the trees that can be purchased at major grocery or hardware stores, it seems a no-brainer to support a lot where all of the proceeds go to a good cause.
“Without a supportive home to go to, these moms – many of whom were foster kids themselves – would be homeless and lose their babies to the foster care system,” says Gale Stewart. “We are trying to stop this cycle.”
When the Christmas season ends, Tammy continues to pay it forward, even if not directly to Aunt Leah’s. Year-round she works as an Aboriginal infant development consultant, through which she teaches new moms how to care for their babies in the Downtown Eastside.
Vancouver Christmas Tree Lot
Location: St. Stephen’s United Church at 54th and Granville Street
Hours: 7 days a week 10 AM – 9 PM
Burnaby Christmas Tree Lot
Location: All Saints Anglican Church at Royal Oak and Rumble
Hours: Monday to Thursday 1 PM – 9 PM, Friday to Sunday 10 AM – 9 PM
Coquitlam Christmas Tree Lot
Eagle Ridge United Church at 2813 Glen Drive
Hours: Friday, Saturday, Sunday from 10 AM – 9 PM
For those without a family and a happy home, Christmas can be a difficult time. “For a lot of families, an Aunt Leah’s Christmas tree is a cherished part of their Christmas tradition,” explained Gale.
Aunt Leah’s received the 2009 award of excellence from Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, the B.C. representative for children and youths, for the society’s work with foster kids.