With their noses to the grindstone, volunteers for the Trail Salvation Army Church merrily packed up approximately 250 Christmas food hampers on Wednesday. Bell ringers are still needed to man the Christmas kettles, and with just ten days left, the annual campaign is only a little more than halfway to reaching its $30,000 goal.

Bell ringers needed at the Trail kettles

Christmas hampers were packed up this week, but volunteers are still needed at the kettles

A blanket of snow was icing on the cake as cheerful elves gathered to pack up about 250 Salvation Army Christmas hampers at the church on Wednesday.

From assembling and lifting heavy boxes to cutting open plastic wrap that sometimes fights back, then packing and sliding goods down the line for labeling – heavy muscle is needed to fill the hampers, though work is always done with merriment.

The long-time father-daughter organizing team of Bob Guesford and Kim Otting, had a dozen or so extra hands this year when six students and instructor Carmen Gattafoni from the Take A Hike program joined in.

This is the first time student Nathaniel Coulson volunteered for the cause, as he said, “It’s all about the Christmas spirit.”

After all, offering goodwill to the community is a mainstay for Take a Hike, an innovative adventure-based learning program run out of Kootenay Columbia Learning Centre.

“A part of our pillar at Take a Hike is to volunteer once a week,” says Gattafoni. “It’s part of the whole program to give back to the community because the community gives to us. We try to find local organizations in need of help and support, so that’s what we are doing here today by helping with the hampers.”

Thousands of pounds of food and all kinds of toys stacked ceiling-high for locals are good tidings from the Greater Trail community this season.

But much of the Christmas giving, and year around help for that matter, wouldn’t happen without donations made at the Salvation Army Christmas kettles.

“Without the kettle campaign, the Christmas program, along with (the food bank and Kate’s Kitchen), we wouldn’t be able to function,” says Linda Radtke, manager for Trail Salvation Army Family Services.

“Because the kettle campaign not only does our Christmas but also keeps us going throughout the year.”

Major Ginny Kristensen says with 10 days left for manning the kettles, at this point, the crunch is on because the church is no where near its $30,000 goal.

The problem is that 54 shifts remain open between now and the close of business on Dec. 23 – so there is worry the target won’t be met.

“We are putting out a plea for help,” said Kristensen. “If we don’t manage to fill all these shifts, we probably won’t make it since we are halfway through the campaign. “

The majority are outdoor shifts at the East Trail liquor store and Canadian Tire, though there are a few indoor slots open at Trail Walmart and Waneta Plaza.

“Funds raised during the Christmas Kettle Campaign will stay local to provide individuals and families the basic necessities such as food, clothing, and other provisions -not only over the holidays but throughout the entire year,” Kristensen said.

“This 2017 campaign is important due to the increase in demand for services,” she stressed.

“As the cost of living continues to rise, an estimated 10 per cent of our population will live at or below the poverty line this year and turn to the services provided by the Trail Salvation Army as a result.”

After a hallmark Kettle Campaign last year, $30,000+ was raised, Kristensen says funds were used during the Christmas season and stretched into 2017 to help feed the less fortunate from the Rossland Avenue pantry.

“That was the best year we ever had, the community was wonderful, ” she said. “The money went towards Christmas hampers to ensure everyone who needed a hamper was able to get one. And then any funds that were left over were used throughout the year to support Kate’s Kitchen and the food bank.”

To volunteer at the kettles and for more information, contact Major Ginny Kristensen at 250.512.7400 or 250.368.3515.

Hosted at more than 2,000 locations across Canada, the annual Christmas Kettle Campaign is the organization’s largest fundraising drive of the year and would not be possible without the thousands of kettle workers who volunteer their time.

Provincially, the campaign goal is to raise $4 million in an effort to feed, cloth and shelter individuals and families in need of support this season.

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