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Norfolk residents working to keep Salvation Army strong

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Norfolk residents didn’t have to be told last year that the coming winter was going to be hard on many individuals and households.

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By time the Salvation Army’s 2020 Christmas Kettle campaign kicked off in November, the county had watched numerous businesses close and people thrown out of work due to COVID-19 lockdowns. As a result, residents and local businesses dug deep when the Christmas kettles came out.

Many individuals, businesses and labour groups also wrote generous cheques, all of which helped the Salvation Army in Simcoe blow past its kettle campaign fundraising target of $200,000. In the end, the local campaign brought in $368,000.

“Last year was a dream season,” Hal Whitcomb, kettle co-ordinator in Simcoe, said Friday at the kickoff to the 2021 campaign at Canadian Tire on the Queensway East.

“We set a record at all kettle locations, with the mail-in campaign, and with the number of volunteers who came forward,” he said.

“That’s the good news. The bad news is the demand for help was higher than ever. Thankfully, we had the resources to respond.”

Given the positive response last year, the local fundraising goal this Christmas has been raised to $300,000. If all goes well, Whitcomb said half will come from kettle donations, while the remainder will come from corporate, labour and mail-in donations.

The Salvation Army and its volunteers will maintain 11 kettle locations in Port Dover, Simcoe, Waterford and Delhi between now and 4 p.m. Christmas Eve. Whitcomb and company are ready to get busy. But, at this point, they could still use additional volunteers to monitor the kettles.

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Lieut. Steve Frank recently took over as the Salvation Army’s lead corporate officer in Simcoe. Previous tours of duty on behalf of the Salvation Army have taken Frank to Manitoba and Toronto. Indications are, Frank said, that demand this winter will again be high for Salvation Army relief programs locally and elsewhere.

“Demand on our food bank services has quadrupled since the pandemic began,” he said at Friday’s launch. “There is an even greater need in our community. We have helped over 3,000 households in Norfolk County since the start of the pandemic, so yes, the need is great.”

This Christmas marks the kettle campaign’s 131st year.

“Contributions to the kettle campaign allow the Salvation Army to continue operating its life-changing programs such as substance-abuse recovery, housing support, job and skills training, and budgeting classes,” the Ontario division of the Salvation Army said in a news release on Nov. 18.

“At 2,000 kettle locations across Canada, every donation to a Christmas kettle remains in the community in which it was given to support local needs.”

In the release, Salvation Army spokesperson Chris McGregor said a significant uptick in inflation is a new challenge for individuals and households coping with precarious finances. Across Ontario, McGregor said the Salvation Army hopes to collect $12 million in all this season through kettle donations.

“Demand for assistance from across all facets of society is on the increase, making the programs and services of the Salvation Army as important as they have ever been,” said Glenn van Gulk, a spokesperson for the Salvation Army’s Ontario division.

“Your continued support during our annual Christmas Kettle campaign is essential to helping our communities’ most vulnerable.”

If you have time to spare that can be devoted to this year’s kettle campaign, contact Whitcomb at 519-909-9421 or at hal.whitcomb@salvationarmy.ca .

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