By Carol Christian, Connect Contributor
While it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas around the city, another bright red stalwart of the holiday season is getting ready to appear.
The annual Salvation Army Christmas Kettle Drive is set to kick off 1 p.m. on Saturday at the Peter Pond Shopping Centre to not only help some local families have a Merry Christmas, but to benefit people year round.
Of all the money that is donated in Wood Buffalo, every cent stays in Wood Buffalo; 100 per cent of the Christmas campaign is for Wood Buffalo.
The Salvation Army’s goal for this year’s drive is $190,000. There are six other kettles around the city, aside from Peter Pond – will be at Canadian Tire, Michelle’s Independent Grocer, Save-On (Stonecreek), Superstore, Sobeys (Thickwood) and Wal-Mart.
In addition to the kettles, a letter appeal campaign will be mailed out to people shortly.
“This is Christmas and the kettle campaign is a very important financial portion of the work The Salvation Army is able to do for families; really for anyone who needs that hand up,” said Major Stephen Hibbs.
The funds are administered through the Army’s family services department which works with the homeless, under privileged, working poor and a number of others The Salvation Army ministers to.
The kettle drive is an integral component of The Salvation Army’s appeal for funds which are also used to assist marginalized and overlooked people.
Every quarter, every $5 bill, every donation people are able to give makes a big difference, allowing the largest non-governmental social service agency in Canada to help families year-round.
“What you give today can improve someone’s tomorrow. It is recognized that the area is going through difficult times as it rebuilds, and as such, The Salvation Army is preparing for increased demand. But it is also optimistic in the community’s heart,” explained Hibbs.
“Last year, when we were in the grips of a recession, we had one of our best kettle drives ever. It goes to show the heart of this community; that no matter how difficult life can be, that giving spirit remains strong.”
Aside from financial donations, The Salvation Army is also welcoming grocery gift cards and toys as it organizes Christmas hampers for those who would otherwise have nothing under the tree or on the table Christmas Day.
In 2015, the Army gave hampers to 304 families and out of those families, there were 513 children that it looked after with Christmas toys.
For the younger members of the community, the Christmas wishes of children can be granted through the generosity of people gifting from the tags that adorn the Angel Tree in the ministry’s church.
While The Salvation Army and its trademark kettles are a traditional sight for the Christmas season, its work doesn’t just stop at Christmas. The work the agency does is 24/7, 12 months a year. It has to find the money to offset that and the Christmas campaign helps tremendously in bridging that gap.
Families and individuals needing help come to the organization’s attention various ways, though mainly in walk-in he said. Families will walk-in because they are very familiar with The Salvation Army. Additionally, a neighbour will call, submitting a name of someone needing some assistance. Schools are another information source.
Hibbs acknowledged that if it wasn’t for the people of Fort McMurray donating, those people wouldn’t be helped, and at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about.
People offering to volunteer can also come by the centre.
The Salvation Army’s overhead costs are kept low because of the agency’s dependence on volun¬teers. And those volunteers are in high demand to staff the kettles during this major fundraiser.
An estimated 18 volunteers a day are needed for varying shifts to assist with the kettle campaign which wraps up noon Christmas Eve.
“We could sure use more,” said Hibbs.
Those interested in volunteering can contact Verna Thomas at 587-646-0981.
– Connect Weekly –