Christmas kettles run dry

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Salvation Army campaign needs more volunteers to help fill coffers

Some of the Salvation Army’s Christmas Kettle stations are going unmanned across the city and it is having a noticeable effect on contributions.

Inadequate volunteer assistance is contributing to what has been described as a major decrease in donations for the annual charity drive, officials say.

“The kettles are a little low this year,” said Carolyn Dubé, the church’s community and family services co-ordinator.

As of Wednesday Dubé was still trying to fill 240 shifts to cover the rest of the campaign, which ends Dec. 24. The manpower shortage coincides with the financial shortfall.

So far the campaign is $5,000 below what was raised at this time last year. With less than two weeks to go, organizers are struggling to remain hopeful about the fundraising goal of $150,000. A little more than $64,000 was raised by the campaign’s halfway mark on Tuesday.

Dubé says she doesn’t understand the volunteer shortage since the time commitment is only two hours and the responsibility level is fairly reasonable. She suggested there may be a disconnect with younger demographics.

“We have a lot of seniors who remember the Salvation Army during the war, that kind of thing, and they’re very, very dedicated to doing volunteer shifts on the kettle. But the younger people, they don’t have that same connection. I think it’s sometimes harder to motivate them to see what’s going on.”

She did suggest that even covering a single shift would be a good fit for high school students to fulfill any extracurricular community service obligation. “We’ve had a couple of schools come in and say that they want their kids to do community hours. We do have a few kids that are doing that.”

While she prefers that volunteers be at least 16, they can still help if they are younger and have someone older like a parent with them.

Dubé said she understands people are busy at this time of year, but any help volunteers can give is appreciated.

“I would really like to say thanks to everybody who has come forward so far, the donors and the people who have volunteered. I want to stress how much we appreciate that. If anybody can spare two hours, we’ve got something that we would love them to do.”

Food bank referrals up

The church relies on money raised from the campaign as its main funding source for the church’s community and family services program. Part of the program’s mandate is to help struggling families by giving them referrals to the St. Albert Food Bank.

Unlike the Christmas Kettle campaign, this program has seen a sharp increase in activity over last year.

“It’s worse this year. We had maybe two to three walk-ins a week last year and we’re getting two to three walk-ins a day now — clients looking for all kinds of assistance. Everybody and their brother wants a Christmas hamper. It’s crazy.”

To find out more information or to offer to help with a kettle station, call Judy at 780-458-1937 or visit www.saintcitysalvationists.blogspot.com.

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Scott Hayes

Scott Hayes joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2008. Scott writes about the arts, entertainment, movies, culture, community groups, and charities. He also writes general news, features, columns and profiles on people.