Tammy Munroe is a poised, articulate young woman who studies at UBC and works as an aboriginal infant development consultant, teaching new moms how to care for their babies in the Downtown Eastside. Christmas is the time she gets to give back to Aunt Leah’s Place, the organization that was a lifeline for her and her infant son 19 years ago.
Then, Tammy was a scared teen struggling to care for a newborn. As a child, Tammy had been bounced from one foster home to another and when she found herself pregnant and kicked out of her group home, she had no place to go.
This was when Aunt Leah’s Place, a Vancouver charity that provides housing and support for aboriginal teen moms and foster teens, stepped in. “I don’t think I could have raised my son on my own without that help,” says Tammy. “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.”
Not only is Tammy dedicated to helping other young moms get on their feet, but every year she gives back to Aunt Leah’s by volunteering at the Aunt Leah’s Christmas Tree Lot. Last year, Aunt Leah’s Christmas Tree Lots at 7405 Royal Oak Avenue, Burnaby; 7025 Granville Street, Vancouver; 220 8th Street West, North Van; and 2813 Glen Drive, Coquitlam, sold over $150,000 worth of top quality, fresh cut trees.
One hundred percent of the profits from Aunt Leah’s Christmas Tree sales go toward paying for housing and programs to support vulnerable new moms and other youths who are aging out of the foster-care system. “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, executive director of Aunt Leah’s. “We are trying to stop this cycle.”
“Working at the tree lot always puts me in the Christmas spirit,” says Tammy. “I love the festive atmosphere and catching up with old friends as so many volunteers and customers come back year after year. But most of all, I feel great knowing that every tree we sell helps young moms and their babies, especially as Christmas can be a difficult time for a lot of people.”
Aunt Leah’s started selling Christmas trees in the 1990s as a fundraiser when government funding was cut. “It has turned into a viable social enterprise and our Christmas tree sales have grown every year,” says Stewart. “For a lot of families, an Aunt Leah’s Christmas tree is a cherished part of their Christmas tradition.”
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.
Vancouver Christmas Tree Lot
Location: St. Stephen’s United Church at 54th & Granville Street
Hours: 7 days a week from 10 AM – 9 PM
Burnaby Christmas Tree Lot
Location: All Saints Anglican Church at Royal Oak & Rumble
Hours: Monday to Thursday from 1 PM – 9 PM, Friday, Saturday, Sunday from 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
See our complete list for real Christmas trees in Metro Vancouver.