Christmas charity requests up in Cape Breton

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The number of families seeking holiday help has increased in Cape Breton, including people who are finding themselves in need for the first time.

With fundraising impacted by the pandemic, resources are spread particularly thin this year, said Maj. Corey Vincent of the Salvation Army.

The Christian organization will support 900 families in Cape Breton this Christmas — an increase of about 25 per cent.

"These are families that have never sought help before or assistance," said Vincent.

"They're unfamiliar with Christmas assistance because they've been able to provide for their families in the past, but because of COVID and unemployment, they've just been stressed to the max."

Kettle campaign down $14K

The pandemic has brought a wide range of challenges for the Salvation Army on the island. Partnering organizations have been unable to sponsor as many families this year.

Another blow has been dealt to the well-known kettle campaign, which Vincent said is down by $14,000 compared to last year.

"That worries me," said Vincent. "But in previous years, we've always noticed that in December a lot of people who give, they're giving more.

"I'm very, very confident that the people of Cape Breton will step up to the plate."

Each year, volunteers with the Every Woman's Centre in Sydney help by purchasing gifts and other items for families sponsored by the organization's adopt-a-family program.

Louise Smith-MacDonald, executive director of the centre, said the extra help contributes to about half of the Christmas items purchased.

"Our unknown was whether people were going to feel comfortable in going out and shopping for the family that they adopted," she said. "It worked out absolutely wonderful. People took their families, they shopped, they shopped early."

Providing meals a necessity

Members of the Sydney Sunrise Rotary Club decided early that fundraising from last year would be spent on COVID relief.

The club recently donated $2,500 each to the Glace Bay food bank and Loaves and Fishes in Sydney.

"We did a little bit of research and for us, we felt the money was best put to help with food insecurity," said Michele McKinnon, the club's public relations chair. "That's where we saw our money could perhaps benefit most people."

McKinnon expects next year giving will be impacted by the pandemic's cancellation of two major fundraisers for the club.

Cape Breton poverty visible

Vincent, who has been ministering with the Salvation Army for almost 20 years across Canada, said poverty is more visible in Cape Breton compared to other areas where he's lived.

"Every day we're seeing clients coming through our facility that are basically living on the edge," he said.

"We see a lot of working-class poor where they're getting hours, they're working — but it's just not enough to meet the demands."

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