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Elves needed for Cridge Centre Christmas Hamper campaign

Organization that helps women fleeing violence sees spike in need
Linda Pityn and Candace Stretch start planning for winter programs at the Cridge Centre for the Family in Victoria. (Christine van Reeuwyk/News Staff)

Women in Greater Victoria are cobbling together housing solutions, some in unsafe situations, in the face of the housing crisis and high cost of living in the region, according to those working in the field at The Cridge Centre for the Family.

In a year, the Cridge Centre supports more than 400 women and children impacted by violence and poverty. The Victoria agency hosts a suite of programs, ranging from the supportive and transition housing to the crisis hotline to housing for seniors and traumatic brain injury support group.

The organization is currently turning away about 95 per cent of applicants for housing, per quarter, said Candace Stretch, manager of supportive housing and family services. They are able to offer other supports in the face of the spike in need.

“Women are under increasing strain, even living here with affordable rent,” Stretch said.

Understandably, Christmas becomes unmanageable, said Linday Pityn who heads the respitality program – where perhaps predictably respite meets hospitality – and the holiday hamper program.

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She took over The Cridge Christmas Hamper Program three years ago from the previous organizer who pioneered it more than 20 years ago. It came with 45 regular donors, or donor groups, who return year after year, decade after decade.

“It’s so wonderful to see the support we get from the community,” Pityn said.

The community comes through for more than 50 clients in the supportive housing program or who have recently left. A typical hamper includes a gift per person in the family and a family gift as a gift card for groceries to allow for a special dinner. Both women say most donors go above and beyond.

“It’s just a matter of making it special and having gifts under the tree,” Pityn said.

Of the families helped, roughly 70 per cent are newcomers, but all get a hamper and most are excited to be involved in the trappings of a traditional Christmas such as putting up a tree or decorations. A handful will instead use the hamper for another special occasion.

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When Pityn started with the Cridge in 2019, social workers didn’t report back much on the needs of families seeking respite. Now, respite is harder to find and the social workers report more complex needs – occasionally a family could use a gift card for groceries or gas or back-to-school clothing. Dovetail that with the massive increase in the cost of living and looming recession and the respitality program is an ideal place for spillover donations from the hamper program.

They ask only for a gift for each member of the family and a gift card to allow for a special dinner

The Cridge Christmas Hamper Program is looking for elves to make holidays special for families in need. For more information, email

If you or someone you know need help, call 250-479-3963 at any time. Visit for help creating a safety plan.

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Christine van Reeuwyk

About the Author: Christine van Reeuwyk

Longtime journalist with the Greater Victoria news team.
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