Marco Chairez and Alicia Aguyao are seeking refugee status in Canada after fleeing Mexico. They have their hearing in Vancouver soon, and dream of opening up their own food truck to serve authentic Mexican food. They are both working hard to learn English and save money, and this year recieved a couple gifts through the Angel Gifts program at Our Place. (Nicole Crescenzi/ News Staff)

Marco Chairez and Alicia Aguyao are seeking refugee status in Canada after fleeing Mexico. They have their hearing in Vancouver soon, and dream of opening up their own food truck to serve authentic Mexican food. They are both working hard to learn English and save money, and this year recieved a couple gifts through the Angel Gifts program at Our Place. (Nicole Crescenzi/ News Staff)

WATCH: Hundreds of gifts go out to Victoria’s Our Place patrons

The Angel Gifts Program saw 700 Christmas presents go out to the community

Mountains of presents took over the chapel at Our Place on Wednesday morning, each neatly wrapped and meant for someone special.

The Angel Gifts Program has run for over 15 years, and this year saw 700 gifts go out to Our Place patrons. Each year local churches, schools and community centres receive information about a particular person: their first name, age, gender and size, and purchase new gifts for them to pick up for Christmas.

“I think the best part is Christmas can be a really tough time for people that maybe don’t have contact with their family, or it can be a very lonely time and a tough time for folks,” said Jordan Cooper, outreach manager at Our Place.

ALSO READ: Victoria’s Our Place is calling for more blanket donations

Cooper has been part of the Angel Gifts program since he was a teenager, and said every year it’s an amazing experience.

“To see the happiness in their eyes when you give them a Christmas present that’s for them , that’s definitely the best part,” he said.

For Garth Tufford, the gift gives him something to look forward to on Christmas Day.

“Oh no, I’m waiting to open this,” Tufford said. “This is the only gift I’ve got.”

Paul Fenje, on the other hand, couldn’t wait to open his. He received a new fleece shirt, some socks, underwear and a knitted toque.

“It’s very impressive, it gives the recipients a sense of worth and a feeling of gratitude,” Fenje said. “It’s a very nice gesture on behalf of many people doing these offerings.”

For Marco Chairez and Alicia Aguayo, the Angel Gifts Program represented their second year in Canada after seeking refugee status when they fled Mexico.

ALSO READ: Victoria volunteers serve up latke lunch at Our Place

“We’re having our interview soon in Vancouver, but we already got our work permit,” Aguayo said. “We’re taking classes, ESL, and also classes on self employment and how to start or own little business, and in the future hopefully we’re gonna have our own food truck with Mexican food. It’s a joy to be in Canada.”

In the mean time the duo are trying to make ends meet, and the Angel Gifts help bring joy to the season, while highlighting the amazing staff and volunteers who organized them.

“This was the first place that opened their doors to us. When we arrived, we find the doors are open, and when we came in… they said ‘welcome to Canada,’” Chairez said. “God bless, I’m happy.”

Aguayo agreed.

“For me it’s a blessing, and bless to all the good hearts, good souls, good people good community and keep blessing Canada,” she said. ” It’s really important for us to receive a gift… A gift, is just a gift, it’s a real thing. Thank you.”

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com


Send a Tweet: @NicoleCrescenzi

Like us on Facebook  

ChristmasOur Place

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

According to Statistics Canada, new housing starts and value of building permits in Greater Victoria rose in January 2021 compared to January 2020. (Black Press Media File)
New housing starts, value of building permits up in Greater Victoria

Cost of new housing also rising in region, now in excess of $1.15 million for a new detached home

The designation of March as Distracted Driving Awareness Month is among several measures designed to stop the use of hand-held phones. In 2018, Sidney/North Saanich RCMP, North Saanich Fire, BC Ambulance and ICBC partnered with Parkland drama students who played the role of driver, passenger and witness to simulate a car crash designed to prevent students from texting and driving. (Black Press Media File)
Police across Greater Victoria step up enforcement of distracted driving

More than a third of B.C. drivers admit to using phone while driving, even as most denounce practice

West Shore RCMP is asking for the public’s help in locating Mackenzie Courchene, a Langford teenager.
MISSING: Mackenzie Courchene last seen in Langford on March 2

West Shore RCMP is asking for the public’s help in locating the Langford teenager

Rendering of the proposed Esquimalt public safety building. (Courtesy Township of Esquimalt)
Esquimalt blazes new trail toward modern public safety building

Township using alternative approval process for first time to gauge public support for proposal

Landmarks such as Howard the giant gnome at Galey's Farm in Saanich make a stunning backdrop for celebratory dance in the Greater Victoria Festival Society trailer for its coming Dance Victoria campaign. (Screeshot/Greater Victoria Festival Society)
Residents’ videos help campaign Dance Across Victoria

Celebratory dance clips to be compiled into Greater Victoria Festival Society video

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
‘It’s been a good week’: Tam hopeful on vaccines as pandemic anniversary nears

Tam says the addition of two new vaccines will help Canadians get immunized faster

Const. Allan Young. Photo: Abbotsford Police Department
Manslaughter charge laid in Nelson death of Abbotsford police officer

Allan Young died after an incident in downtown Nelson last summer

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

The Port Alice pulp mill has been dormant since 2015. (North Island Gazette file photo)
Parts recycled, life returning to inlet as as old Port Alice mill decommissioned

Bankruptcy company oversees de-risking the site, water treatment and environmental monitoring

The Conservation Officers Service is warning aquarium users after invasive and potentially destructive mussels were found in moss balls from a pet store. (BC Conservation Officers Service/Facebook)
Aquarium users in B.C. warned after invasive mussels found at pet store

Conservation officers were told the mussels were found in a moss ball from a Terrace pet store.

Hockey hall-of-fame legend Wayne Gretzky, right, watches the casket of his father, Walter Gretzky, as it is carried from the church during a funeral service in Brantford, Ont., Saturday, March 6, 2021. HE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky remembered as a man with a ‘heart of gold’ at funeral

The famous hockey father died Thursday at age 82 after battling Parkinson’s disease

Donald Alan Sweet was once an all star CFL kicker who played for the Montreal Alouettes and Montreal Concordes over a 13-year career. Photo courtesy of Mission RCMP.
Ex-B.C. teacher who was CFL kicker charged with assault, sexual crimes against former students

Donald Sweet taught in Mission School District for 10 years, investigators seek further witnesses

(Black Press Media files)
Medicine gardens help Victoria’s Indigenous kids in care stay culturally connected

Traditional plants brought to the homes of Indigenous kids amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Most Read