The St. Albert Salvation Army kicks off its Christmas Kettle Campaign Nov. 13 and this year the local church group needs $380,000 to aid the folks in this community who need a helping hand.
“Our clients have basic needs, from help with rent, with utilities, with coats and even sometimes with prescription drugs. They need resources so they don’t need help every month,” said Major Terry Cook.
Major Terry Cook and his wife Major Joanne Cook work with community services co-ordinator Kellie McTaggart to find the resources those people need.
Cook explained that the poor in St. Albert need more than donations of food. The hungry and homeless may need direction as well as a roof over their heads.
“Food is not enough. We have agencies in St. Albert like the food bank, Stop Abuse in Families and the seniors’ centre but one organization can’t do it all,” he said.
“We work together with the other organizations. When people in need come to us, we ask them, ‘What have you tried?’ We are their last resort. But we are here to help them through the crisis and give them resources so they don’t end up in crisis every month.”
The loneliest may simply need a place to go and people to talk to and the Army provides that too.
Funds from the kettles are used in a variety of ways and allow the Salvation Army to provide programs for every age group from children to seniors.
Nearly every day of the week the local church hosts group events running from mother and child drop-in meetings to luncheons for seniors and the disabled. In the fall there is an ongoing collection of coats for every age group. There are summer camps for children.
And when on an unexpected basis, people in need simply stop by to see if the Salvation Army can help them, the goal is to help them help themselves.
“People will say, ‘I was walking by and saw the Salvation Army shield and I am hoping you can help,’ ” Cook said.
The drop-in clients usually come because they have a specific need.
“Maybe they got an eviction notice; maybe they are in an abusive situation; maybe the food bank helped, but now they need gluten-free food; maybe they are out of medicine and cannot do without. Whatever their crisis, whether it’s physical, emotional, food-related or mental health problems, they come here because they know we will try to help them,” Cook said.
In recent months the greatest need has been to help young people, who have left their home and are either camping in the bush or staying in a friend’s basement.
“This year there were an increasing number of teens,” Kellie McTaggart said.
Some kids just can’t stay home, she said, adding that often the youth have a more complex list of needs, when compared to others.
“Some kids may be in abusive homes or there may be drugs in the home or they themselves are in trouble with drugs. Some have been deciding they are transgender and do not get support. All those kids still need somewhere to live,” McTaggart said.
Often the kids will have part-time jobs but they still may be attending school. The part-time job doesn’t cover full-time rent or food, and that’s when they run into difficulty.
“One boy stayed with friends, but when that welcome ran out, he stayed in an apartment. Then he had a party and got kicked out of that place. He wanted a tent and stayed in the bush for a while. We found him a room to rent in a private home,” McTaggart said.
Food for thought
Last year the Salvation Army began its Feed My Lambs program in St. Albert and Sturgeon County schools. Presently 18 elementary schools are supplied with breakfast food for their students. The program received a provincial start-up grant and donations from the Rotary Club, but there is increasing demand, McTaggart said, as more schools need breakfasts. The Salvation Army also needs volunteer help to keep the schools supplied.
“We have more schools this year and we have received calls from junior high schools and even senior high schools but so far we haven’t been able to help them,” McTaggart said, adding that the Feed My Lambs program could be taken to more schools if there are sufficient donations during the Christmas Kettle Campaign.
A perennial need for the Salvation Army is to help families at Christmas.
“Clients come in and say they need toys for their kids and we tell them their options. They might get help from the Kinette Christmas Hampers or from Saint Vincent de Paul or the St. Albert Food Bank or the Salvation Army’s Toys for Christmas. They choose the helping program they need,” Cook said.
Those needing gifts for their children may come in to a small “store” within the church. The Salvation Army receives donated toys for this program and they have a budget to top the toys up as they disappear. Parents can come in with their children’s wish list, and see if the toys are on the shelves. They take the presents home and wrap them up.
“It allows the parents some dignity. We also give them a food hamper,” Cook said.
Cook asks people to donate to the kettle campaign if they are able. Volunteers are also needed to help with the hundreds of shifts needed at each kettle. All the kettle funds go to the Salvation Army programs to help people in need.
“St. Albert is such a generous community. We could not do this without the support of the community,” he said.
For more information about donating to help with the Christmas Kettle Campaign, phone the church at 780-458-1937.