The Salvation Army has been serving those in need in the Tillsonburg area during challenging times caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and that will continue in coming months with the Christmas hamper and kettle programs.
“We’re going to plan like we are in full COVID,” said Captain Nancy Sheils, Salvation Army – Tilsonburg and Area. “So if we do happen to be in full COVID, we don’t have to be scrambling.”
The biggest difference with the hamper program this year is no on-site pre-registering.
“In early November we’re going to be asking people to call in,” said Sheils. “We will give them a date and a time (in December) to come and see us at our hamper location. We will register them and give them their hamper, both at that time.”
Appointments will be scheduled 15 minutes apart and only the designated ‘toy walker,’ a volunteer assisting with toy selections, will handle the toys.
“We’ll keep it social distancing and masks of course.”
For the last couple of years the Salvation Army has been distributing food gift cards rather than food in its hampers.
“They also get a voucher or coupon from us to come and see us mid-January to the end of January at the (Salvation Army) food bank, so they’ll come back to get food if they need it. The food we do get at Christmas, we save that for the big outlay in January.
“Of course we’re open every day of the week except for Saturdays and Sundays, but even on weekends somebody could get food if they had to.”
Families also receive toys with their Christmas hampers through generous donations from the community.
“It’s going to be a hard year to read right now. You don’t know how people are going to respond. Will they be out buying toys in stores (to donate)? Will they be giving money for us to do that? We’re living in the unknown.
“There have been people who have generously donated over these last few months – and I think that’s going to continue. At least, I hope it will as we move into the Christmas season.”
Just last week Sheils received funds from Unifor Local 88 at Cami Automotive in Ingersoll, one of several significant donations to organizations in the area.
“They are thankful they have a job and they just want to make sure other people are taken care of.’
The local kettle program will also continue this year and Sheils said more information will be forthcoming in the next few weeks.
“Last year the town, and the area, raised $135,000, the most that we’ve ever raised. And I am so thankful for that because we have needed every dime of that this year. And I think we’re going to need it again. I think in the spring of next year we’re going to see a lot of hurting people… a need is going to arise.
“We will do everything in our power to do what we’ve always done. It’s just going to be different, there’s no getting around that. But people will still get helped as they’ve always been helped.”
Turkeys and food to make Thanksgiving holiday meals were provided last weekend to those in need.
“We haven’t had a lot of calls for Thanksgiving,” said Sheils last Thursday. “Because of the COVID, I think a lot of people are going to be staying home, not going out.”