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Gift found in giving

Salvation Army helps spread holiday cheer
Gift found in giving

by Kyle Wells Christmas holidays are a season full of family, warmth and cheer for many and a season of cold, hunger and loneliness for a great many others, a situation Salvation Army works hard every year to make a little bit better.

Salvation Army is guided by the principle of “soup, soap and salvation.” As a Christian organization it strives to help those in need in society by providing to those who may not otherwise be able to provide for themselves.

One of the main programs Salvation Army Powell River Corps runs this time of year is the Christmas hamper initiative. Through cash and food donations, Salvation Army puts together hampers for individuals and families filled with items to help them get through the holiday season. Around $11,000 to $15,000 goes into food for the hampers annually.

Hampers go out this year on Thursday, December 15 and will be packed by volunteers in the week leading up to that. Donations are still being accepted and people are invited to bring in cash, non-perishable food items, toys and especially items for teenagers, which Captain Rick Robins said can be hard to find. Save-On-Foods is hosting a food drive for Salvation Army on Saturday, December 17 and hopes to fill a city bus with food items donated by customers on that day.

Last year Salvation Army helped 8,000 people in Powell River over the course of the year, whether it be with food or money for new glasses or any number of other ways. This year it had already served 8,500 by September and is likely to see upward of 10,000 people by the end of the year.

“We help them get on their feet and a lot of times it’s been very successful,” said Robins. “They needed that hand up and we had the privilege of being able to be there to help them up and now they’ve got jobs and are contributing again. It’s a wonderful circle when you see those things.”

Coats for Kids is an ongoing program that Salvation Army organizes. The program provides free winter clothing for those who might not otherwise be able to afford it. Contributing a lion’s share of the work involved is Powell River Lions Club, which works with Salvation Army to collect and distribute the coats. This year the clubs expanded the program to provide coats to Family Place and Kiwanis Village, which were well received. Over 350 coats have been distributed already this year.

The ubiquitous Salvation Army Kettle Campaign is ongoing, with funds raised going toward Salvation Army donations throughout the year. Kettle drive donations have been dwindling. Robins said the money collected so far this year is about $2,000 less than collected by this time last year, which was about $2,000 less than the year before.

“We have a good community, it always comes back in the end, but it’s kind of scary at this point,” said Robins.

Money from the kettle drive stays within the community and goes toward helping out people in need throughout the year with a variety of services. As examples, Robins said the money can go toward emergency travel for a person who can’t afford it, or toward new glasses or toward a few nights in a hostel to help a person get on their feet.

“The more money we have to play with the more I’m able to say yes than no, which is the big thing,” said Robins. “It’s always difficult to say no, it’s much easier to be able to say yes. But without the money there, which is sad to say, we can’t say yes.”

Christmas dinner is taking place on Sunday, December 18. At the event Salvation Army and its volunteers will provide a free Christmas dinner to those in town who may not otherwise be able to afford one. Anyone who wishes to attend the dinner needs to get tickets from Salvation Army, although Robins warned they are almost already all gone. A second seating is being considered in the hope of being able to provide dinner to everyone who is interested in taking part.

“We’re better off in giving to others than in the receiving, but in the giving we also are blessed with the receiving,” said Robins. “It makes you feel good at the end of the day that you did something that made a difference.”

Salvation Army is located at 4500 Joyce Avenue.