The Grande Prairie Salvation Army kicked off its kettle campaign last Thursday with music and special guests. But even as bells jingle through the halls of Prairie Mall, they may fall silent.
A lack of volunteers is affecting the Salvation Army’s kettles this year, and with increased demand at their food bank, volunteers are needed more than ever.
“We have struggled this year, especially to get volunteers,” said Captain Peter Kim, Grande Prairie Salvation Army executive director.
The community is in need as 20 per cent of the city population is now accessing the food bank, he said.
Kim noted volunteers are asked to take two hours of their time to stand by the kettles collecting donations. The first day of the kettle campaign had enough volunteers, but Kim noted there were many extra spots in the next two days.
“It's a great tradition (where) two hours of your time gives a lifetime of support to someone in need, and it's great when I see families come out and volunteer with their kids; it teaches the next generation to be aware of the rest of the community and the needs of the community,” said Kim.
Donations raised will go to the local food bank and Christmas hampers.
“Everything that's raised here stays here and helps our families that are here,” said Kim.
He noted the food bank has also begun giving gift cards for local grocery stores to those in need.
“We buy gift cards from the stores that are in Grande Prairie so families can actually have that dignity and choice this Christmas to purchase the foods that they're most comfortable with.
“Some people have allergies, some people have dietary needs, some are cultural foods that you know normally don't come into a hamper, and this gives them that sense of dignity and choice.”
He noted that in the past donations of expired food items have presented challenges. Monetary donations help with ensuring the Salvation Army does not need to throw away expired items and pay for the removal of those items.
The goal is to raise $600,000 this year through the kettle campaign.
Kim noted as the world is becoming more cashless, the kettles now have an option for people to donate using a tap option on their cards. Cash is still accepted.
On Thursday, Mayor Jackie Clayton was the first to donate to kettles using the tap payment system.
“We know our needs are growing every single day,” said the mayor.
“Our community needs us more, so I ask that you give, and you give often this year.”
Kim said he hopes businesses will contribute this year.
“We're hoping that the corporations and the oilfield will cut us a cheque and that would really help families in need,” he said.
The city will be contributing $200,000 to Salvation Army, council decided on Friday (Nov. 18) during 2023 budget deliberations.
Kim went to city council on Oct. 17, informing them of the need for additional funds for the food bank and the community kitchen, which offers meals to those in need.
Coun. Chris Thiessen noted the ask from the Salvation Army for the city to donate funds to the food bank was a first, noting the severity of the situation.
“There is a need now,” said Mayor Clayton.
“This isn't an ongoing funding discussion; this is an emergent need.”
“We ask that the community please support the organization as well because it's vital to the success (of the) people that need it,” she said.
The first kettle day was accompanied by the 501st Legion of costumed Star Wars characters, while the Alberta Fine Arts Foundation had musicians playing Christmas carols. Dignitaries from the city were also in attendance.
People who wish to donate can donate online at salvationarmygp.ca and at several kettle locations around the city.
If you wish to volunteer, you can contact the Salvation Army at 780-296-3946.
Jesse Boily, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News