COVID-19 has forced the Salvation Army to adjust its Christmas Kettle Campaign in Norfolk.
Due to the pandemic, the Salvation Army is holding its fundraising target at last year’s level of $200,000.
As well, kettle volunteers will be outfitted with portable debit machines to accommodate donors who don’t carry cash. Donors also can phone the temple on Colborne Street North in Simcoe and charge a donation to their credit card.
Hal Whitcomb of Port Dover, co-ordinator of the local kettle campaign, said that the Salvation Army has moderated its expectations this year due to COVID-19.
“We anticipate a little less foot traffic and a reluctance on the part of some to approach the kettle,” Whitcomb said at this year’s launch in Simcoe.
The obstacles to a normal campaign come at a time when demand for social services in general has spiked.
“COVID-19 has hit everyone harder than we had hoped,” said Terry Simmons, the Salvation Army’s local manager of community and family services.
“The numbers that have increased involved people who were working but are now on EI (Employment Insurance) or CERB (Canada Emergency Response Benefit).”
Demand for Salvation Army Christmas hampers is already off the charts. The local congregation distributed 570 hampers last December. With more than a week left in November and nearly all of December to go, the Salvation Army has already registered requests for 650 and counting.
Christmas hampers are usually a combination of food and toys. Toys remain a feature. However, to reduce the risk of exposure to the coronavirus for all concerned, food relief comes in the form of a gift card good at area grocery stores.
During peak periods of activity, Whitcomb will oversee 10 kettle stations in Port Dover, Simcoe, Waterford and Delhi. Five kettles will be stationed in Simcoe, while three will be in Port Dover and Delhi and Waterford will have one station each.
The campaign is volunteer-intensive. However, Whitcomb said Norfolk has risen to the occasion.
“We’re doing well,” he said. “We’re happy with our response. This campaign requires 50 volunteers a day, so we are never in a position where we don’t need volunteers.
“We always need volunteers. It’s the most important part of our program.”
Having the honour of jingling the first bells of the 2020 campaign was Diane Luke of Simcoe. Luke has volunteered as a kettle minder for the past several years.
“It’s fun,” she said in front of Canadian Tire on the Queensway East in Simcoe. “You get to see all these people and I get to jingle these bells.”
Locally, the Salvation Army hopes to collect $100,000 between now and Christmas through Kettle donations. Another $100,000 could come through its annual letter drive to local businesses, unions and other benefactors.
To add your name to the roster of Kettle volunteers, phone or text Whitcomb at 519-909-9421 or email him at email@example.com .
The number to call for the Salvation Army’s community and family services division in Simcoe is 519-426-3640.