With the Christmas season soundly settling in across Greater Sudbury, the need for volunteers has never been greater for The Salvation Army.
It's the busiest time of the year for The Salvation Army, and it needs about 3,500 man hours over the Christmas season to cover the need for its Kettle Campaign. Those are all volunteer hours, so it will take a small army to make it happen, said Caroline Lewis, Community Ministries Co-ordinator for The Salvation Army Sudbury.
“We kind of start our Christmas season in September and go right through to January,” Lewis said. “It's the longest time of the year for us.”
Dedicated volunteers return year after year, she said, but there's always a desire to bring in new volunteers, because people move away, get sick, or aren't able to volunteer for some reason or another.
“We would really love to get students to come volunteer,” she said. “In exchange for their time, we can sign off on the hours they need to graduate from high school.”
Because The Salvation Army serves so many people over the Christmas season — last year, more than 3,400 residents received help over the holidays — it means that for every one man hour of time donated, one person is being helped at Christmas, Lewis said.
“Almost everyone can give one hour of their time to volunteer, even if your schedule is really busy,” she said.
Volunteers of all ages are welcome; however, anyone under the age of 16 needs a parent to come with them. Volunteers between the ages of 16 and 18 can partner up to make it more fun and easier.
She said many of the people who do receive help feel the need to give back by volunteering their own time with The Salvation Army.
“We had a parent come in to sign up as a volunteer, and they were so excited because they get to spend two hours — volunteering with the Kettle campaign requires a two-hour commitment — with their kid and do something for the community,” she said.
“We don't ask anything in return for what we give people at Christmas, but a lot of people are used to working for what they receive. It's difficult to be humbled into a place where they need to accept charity and rely on others to take care of you.”
The Christmas Kettle campaign is The Salvation Army's sole fundraising effort of the year. There are 12 kettles that will be put out into the community beginning Nov. 17, and volunteers are needed to watch over them and collect donations.
“Partner up with a friend, go out for two hours to stand at a kettle, and that's two hours to talk and have some fun,” Lewis said.
On Nov. 10 alone, more than 100 people had registered for a Christmas hamper in the morning. By the end of Nov. 17, numbers were as high as 987 households. Last year, more than 1,100 people were served through the Christmas hamper program, Lewis said, with turkeys and almost $50,000 worth of grocery gift cards handed out.
The Salvation Army also has a toy room stocked with new, unopened toys for children 13 years of age and younger. Parents who register with The Salvation Army are able to go through the room and pick toys they know their children will like. The bulk of the toys come from the TD ToyBank Toy Drive, 92.7 Rock and its partners, as well as from community members making donations.
Close to 1,000 children had presents waiting for them under the tree Christmas morning thanks to the toy room.
“This way, it lets the parents feel like they’re shopping for their kids, and if a child doesn't like Barbie, then they won't end up with Barbie under the tree on Christmas morning,” Lewis said.
The Salvation Army has set a target to raise $255,000 through its Christmas fundraising efforts.