As the Christmas season dawns, so does one of the busiest times of the year for staff at the Red Deer Salvation Army.
Tomorrow marks the launch of the annual Christmas Kettle Campaign at Bower Place Shopping Centre, which also marks the start of the season for the church and its community services arm. The launch begins at noon and will include some special musical guests as well including His Light – a choral group for Koinonia Christian School.
“The kick-off helps to get things rolling,” he said, smiling.
By reaching this year’s fundraising goal of $220,000, the Salvation Army in Red Deer will be able to support family service programs, provide year-round food hampers, Christmas assistance, counseling and senior programs among other services, said Major Larry Bridger of the Salvation Army Church & Community Services. Meanwhile, kettles are set up at Wal-Mart (north and south locations), Co-op (Deer Park), Parkland Mall, Bower Place Shopping Centre, Save-On Foods (East Hill), Superstore, Costco and the Independent Grocery Store in Clearview Ridge.
Anyone interested in signing up for a two-hour shift can call Debbie Lang, the Christmas Kettle coordinator, at 403-346-2251.
“To us, it’s all a means of doing what we feel God has called us to do,” said Bridger of the seasonal outreach. “It’s because of the love that He gives us, that we are able to share that love with others. That’s what we do at Christmas. It’s a matter of God has called us, He loves us, and in response to His love we want to pass it on. It’s like the old Salvation Army motto – Heart to God, Hand to Man.”
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. 3rd at the Kerry Wood Nature Centre. “It’s always on the first Saturday of December.”
Things get underway at 10 a.m. “Basically, people who would like to participate can register online at www.santashuffle.ca or contact the Running Room here in Red Deer.
“They’ve been a tremendous support to us,” he said. “It does very, very well.”
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.
“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. “Proceeds go into our community ministries fund to help with our family assistance programs and our kids’ feeding programs – so that’s what the money is used for.”
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 for an appointment.
Applications for the program will be accepted through to Dec. 9th.
“Families apply, and we then ask them for a wish list,” he said. “Anybody who sponsors a family, we try and match our sponsors up depending on the size of the both families. Grocery store cards are good, as are mall gift cards – that sort of thing, so that people can purchase their own food.
“It’s much easier if they are gift cards they can use.”
With the ongoing tough economic times, there is also an increased need for sponsors for the Adopt-A-Family program. And folks can also simply donate cash to the program as well, even if they don’t want to put together a hamper per se.
Another good idea is to round up colleagues, neighbours or friends in a local club or organization and all contribute to a hamper for the Adopt-A-Family program, too. “We get a lot of companies sponsors, and some of them may sponsor three, four or more families.”
But even a $20, $30 or $40 donation towards the program is certainly welcome.
Donations of food, gift cards for food and gift items and toys go into the packages which are later delivered to recipients in need. “We need those sponsors – so far we’ve had a number of people sign up, but we need a lot more because we expect our numbers to be up considerably,” he said, adding that last year about 200 hampers were given out. The year before that, the number stood at about 180.
“Some sponsors like to do their own shopping for the gifts; other provide gift cards. Some provide a combination of both.”
Within last year’s numbers, 400 children were helped out via the Adopt-A-Family program as well.
Other December events include visits to local long-term care facilities which begin Nov. 30th and include a sing-song and the handing out of Christmas packages, the Community Christmas dinner will once again be served at the Salvation Army Dec. 25th at 1 p.m.
A Christmas Eve candlelight service also runs at 6:30 p.m. “It’s a time when we can breathe a sigh of relief because the rush of the Christmas Kettles is over, preparations are done – it’s nice to be able to reflect – it’s a nice atmosphere.
“It’s nice to be quiet and reflect on things, and celebrate the reason for the season – what it’s all about.”
For more about any of the above programs, or to find out how to help out, call the church office at 403-346-2251.