The Christmas season marks one of the busiest times of the year for staff at the Red Deer Salvation Army, with the launch of the annual kettle campaign and an array of other events and fundraising initiatives.
With a goal of raising $210,000, the local kettle campaign was recently launched at Bower Place Shopping Centre.
By reaching this year’s fundraising goal, the Salvation Army in Red Deer will be able to support family service programs, provide year-round food hampers, Christmas assistance, counseling, senior programs and summer camps in 2015, said Major Larry Bridger of the Salvation Army Church & Community Services. Several single beds are also purchased and given to eligible applicants each year. “We usually buy about 10 and they are provided to families that are in need who apply,” he said.
Meanwhile, kettles are set up at Wal-Mart (north and south locations), Canadian Tire (north), Co-op (Deer Park), Parkland Mall by the Safeway entrance, Bower Place Shopping Centre, Save-On Foods (East Hill), Superstore and Costco. Bridger said volunteers are needed for a variety of shifts.
“We’re doing relatively well with volunteers, but we could always use more,” he said. “Especially at a couple of places, including the Deer Park Co-op and on the north end – Canadian Tire and Parkland Mall,” he said, adding there are openings at the other locations as well. Anyone interested in signing up for a two-hour shift can call Debbie Lang, the Christmas Kettle coordinator, at 403-346-2251.
As for the campaign’s history, it started in 1891 when Salvation Army Captain Joseph McFee was distraught because so many poor individuals in San Francisco were going hungry. According to the Salvation Army web site, “During the holiday season, he resolved to provide a free Christmas dinner for the destitute and poverty-stricken. He only had one major hurdle to overcome — funding the project.
“He lay awake nights, worrying, thinking, praying about how he could find the funds to fulfill his commitment of feeding 1,000 of the city’s poorest individuals on Christmas Day. As he pondered the issue, his thoughts drifted back to his sailor days in Liverpool, England. He remembered how at Stage Landing, where the boats came in, there was a large, iron kettle called ‘Simpson’s Pot’ into which passers-by tossed a coin or two to help the poor.
“The next day Captain McFee placed a similar pot at the Oakland Ferry Landing at the foot of Market Street. Beside the pot, he placed a sign that read, ‘Keep the Pot Boiling.’ He soon had the money to see that the needy people were properly fed at Christmas.”
Meanwhile, local residents are also encouraged to dust off those jingle bells and pull out their Santa hats for the annual Santa Shuffle on Dec. 5th.
Those taking part raise pledges and tackle either the 5km Santa Shuffle Run or a 1km Elf Walk. Proceeds support Salvation Army Family Services programs. For more information or to register call 403-346-2251 or visit www.santashuffle.ca. This year’s event starts at 10 a.m. and it’s at the Kerry Wood Nature Centre.
“The Running Room started it over 20 years ago – anywhere they have a store they hold a Santa Shuffle. They take registrations and people pay to participate, but they are also encouraged to collect pledges. And there are prizes for those who raise the most money in pledges, and for those who come in first, second or third in the run or the Elf Walk,” said Bridger.
Another initiative is the annual Adopt-A-Family. Families needing to register for Christmas assistance are asked to call 403-346-2251 during business hours. As of last week, about 80 families had registered so far.
“Registrations go until the 11th of December, so we still have a ways to go,” said Bridger. “Last year, we did 180 – but our numbers are up right now in terms of families that are applying for assistance.”
There is also an increased need for sponsors for the Adopt-A-Family program. “With the economic times what they are, we’ve had a few who have called and said they weren’t going to be able to sponsor this year. So we could still use people help – that would be great to have.
“Our numbers (in general) have been up over this past year,” he said. “We’re seeing a lot of new people we haven’t seen before, and people applying for Christmas assistance that we haven’t seen before as well. Obviously the economy is playing a big role in that – people are hurting. There is no doubt about that.”
Donations of food, gift cards for food and gift items and toys go into the packages which are later delivered to recipients in need.
Bridger said the kettle campaign funds also support a backpack program, where volunteers fill backpacks with a variety of foods on a weekly basis for kids, which ultimately helps out their families as well. Bridger said the Army recently received an award from the Red Deer Public School Board acknowledging how much of a difference the backpack program makes in many local families.
Other December events include the Community Christmas Dinner will once again be served at the Salvation Army Dec. 25th at 1 p.m. Last year, about 220 were served. A Christmas Eve candlelight service also runs at 6:30 p.m.