The tinkling of bells sounds off the holiday season today at 11 a.m. with the launch of the Salvation Army’s Christmas Kettle Campaign at Ferraro Foods.
Volunteers will be ringing in donations for the annual drive that aims to raise money and awareness for the continued need for social service programs and resources for vulnerable individuals and families.
Bruce Taylor is one of 139 locals signed up to bring cheer this year.
He’s been donning his woolies and bringing upbeat Christmas music, courtesy of his wife Susan, to the kettles outside Shoppers Drug Mart and Walmart for 15 years.
For the retired police officer, the campaign literally hits close to home.
“I was just a young boy in Drumheller, Alberta,” recalled Taylor, saying the year was 1949 or 1950.
“Our house was the last to go in a row of 11 homes that were burnt down in the middle of a very cold winter.”
The fire was probably caused by a coal stove, he surmises, because the main fuel in those days was coal.
The story doesn’t end there, because just as community members were getting ready to save the Taylor house, the fire department’s pumper truck pulled in.
It was so cold outside, 30 or 40 below, that when the fire truck backed up and inadvertently ran over the hose, the line cracked and water ran all over the ground and the family home was lost.
“My mother told me that the Salvation Army were the first ones to come and help,” said Taylor. “They put us up in a hotel and brought food and clothing which they never charged for.”
Taylor remembers his mother’s stories of how the church helped during the war years, and he discovered throughout his decades on the force the dedication of church volunteers.
“I joined the RCMP in 1970 and spent all my time in different places in B.C.,” he explained.
“The Salvation Army was almost always the first on scene to provide assistance to people, victims of different crimes and to help out the police and response teams with hot drinks and food. So I thought this was my way of giving something back to society and this is a good organization to help.”
Last year, the church received $31,500 in donations from the Greater Trail community, and this year Major Wilf Harbin is hoping to top the funds a little more, with a goal of $32,000.
“Our number one priority with the donations is our Christmas hamper program,” said Harbin. “But we wouldn’t able to do it without our volunteers.”
Considered Canada’s largest and most recognizable charitable event, the kettle drive keeps all dollars in the community where the dollars are raised.
All donations left over from the Christmas hamper program are disbursed throughout the year through the Salvation Army Food Bank, Kate’s Kitchen, and the Family Services Program.
Those in need are treated to extra goodies for the holidays. The hampers are stuffed with everything from canned soups and cookies to meat and fresh produce gift certificates to local grocery stores.
While the Christmas hampers contain specialty items like cranberry sauce and gift certificates to give families the traditional dining experience, giving is not a deed picked up only once a year.
Kate’s Kitchen coordinator Linda Radtke expects more than 300 hampers will be made this year, keeping with last year’s numbers, and some of these families will also rely on donated gifts for their children. Residents can play Santa by picking a tag from a Christmas gift tree set up so far at the Waneta Plaza and Ferraro’s. A gift donation can later be dropped under the Christmas tree unwrapped.
The Salvation Army also runs a family sponsor program, where the organization matches donators with a family in need.
“If it wasn’t for the Christmas hampers and the Salvation Army a lot of people would be sitting at home with nothing for Christmas, especially if they have children with no toys, with no food and that’s not something that we want to see,” said Radtke. “We want to make sure that everybody is looked after at Christmas, Christmas is a very important time of year and we don’t want to see anyone suffer.”
Radtke says the food bank’s cupboards are filling up but she warns after the holiday is when food is seriously needed.
Applications for the hampers can be filled out at Kate’s Kitchen on Rossland Avenue before Dec. 9.
Volunteers will be collecting donations inside Waneta Plaza, outside of Walmart, Shoppers Drug Mart and the BC Liquor Store every Thursday Friday and Saturday until Dec. 9 when shifts will run regularly Monday through Saturday until Christmas Eve. There will be a final push at Ferraro’s in Trail the last few days leading up to Dec. 24.