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Cost of living hits annual Kettle Campaign

A member of the Salvation Army during an undated annual Kettle Campaign. — (editorial purposes only) © J_Lai / Flickr

By Jaymie White Local Journalism Initiative Reporter PORT AUX BASQUES — The Salvation Army Christmas Kettle Campaign has experienced a lower number of donations than usual. In addition to critical fundraising, the Christmas kettles boost the Army’s visibility and awareness. There are more than 2,000 kettle locations across the country that support a wide range of Salvation Army programs. According to the Salvation Army’s website: “For many Canadians, the Christmas kettles are their only point of contact with The Salvation Army all year. According to public opinion polling, more than half of all Salvation Army donors list “giving to a Christmas kettle” as their primary method of giving to The Salvation Army. “Furthermore, the Army relies on the co-operation of numerous retail partners to ensure the ongoing success of this campaign. Continued goodwill from these retail partners is critical.” David Harvey, Ministry Lead for the Salvation Army in Port aux Basques, said that the lower than usual donations is not just happening in this region. “I think we’re finding that it’s pretty well down right across the whole province,” said Harvey. “I know in Stephenville, a friend of ours, Major Brian Wheeler, did an interview with NTV, and I think it’s about half of what they were last year. Financial donations in Corner Brook, I think they’re probably off about $50,000, and I know here locally we’re just slightly over half of our goal. Our goal is $28,000 and we’re just slightly over half it, so we’re significantly down from last year.” The reduction in donations will have a big impact. “It will affect it a significant amount. We have our food bank, which depends heavily on the funds that we get. Community and family services runs off of the donations that we get mostly from our Christmas campaign. So, obviously, you can tell at just a little over half we’re going to be obviously down. Now, we’re fortunate in one sense that we access Newfoundland’s food safe. That gives us some access to foods that we normally wouldn’t have,” said Harvey. “It’s out of St. John’s, the big warehouse. They provide all food items, non-perishables for across the province. So every month basically, I call and say, ‘okay, can you send in a couple of pallets of stuff?’ And they do send some things we can use within the food bank. Others are things that are products that just happen to be one-time shots. Like you get all the sparkling water and all this stuff, which a lot of times just sits forever. So that helps. But when you look at that per family that comes to our food bank, it’s roughly one hundred and thirty dollars to one hundred and fifty dollars per person that we’re giving out.” There are families that depend on the food bank. “According to the regulator rules we have a policy. If we have established that once a month a person is able to come within that 28-29 days span, they can come. We are averaging right now over 20 families per week,” said Harvey. “So that’s 80 to 100 per month, add that to $130 per family. All of a sudden, the budget you had is shot. So we depend heavily upon food donations or what we get out of St. John’s to do our work. Plus we have our community kitchen, which we provide all food items for. That will be significantly changed if we’re not going to be able to make our goals and get the monies we need.” The Thrift Store in Port aux Basques remains popular and that also helps with funding. “That gives us some funding that we can pull from, transfer from one to the other to make things work, but at the same time, you can only draw from your resources so long, and then they become depleted as well,” said Harvey. “And that’s not only for the food bank. That basically runs everything we do within the community, with the church and with our staff and everything else. So a lot of that funding gets used other ways, too.” There is no one thing that Harvey believes is contributing to a loss in donations aside from the overall state of the economy in the province, specifically the skyrocketing cost of living. “Electricity is higher. Your gas prices for your vehicles are up and down. You don’t know, food prices are significantly changed. The fact of even going out and trying to get anything, and it’s not only this community. It’s every community. There’s an increase and I think people are finding that you have to choose. You either try to look after your own family, provide for your own needs, versus giving to those who are unfortunately not being able to do it for themselves,” said Harvey. While the cash donations may be down, donations of food items are higher than normal compared to the previous three years. That will help offset the reduction in financial donations when it comes to helping people through the food bank. “This year, our food bank donations seem to be more than what they were, more than what they normally were like. Even with the Christmas parade, it was probably the best year in three years that we’ve seen for food donations, which really surprised us. We weren’t expecting that. Also the fact that people are dropping off things periodically, and there’s been some food that came in from the coast, that came up from the valley, which is kind of cool because that helps augment what we do now. Whether that, once this season is finished and over with, whether that continues or not, because people in the new year, I think, are going to find even a bigger strain to get things. So right now, it’s good. But we have individuals who are very fortunate, the folks that we have, who are very good stewards of what are given to us. So we’re really being cautious of what, one at a time, we give out two tins of soup or three tins of soup because we had surplus. Especially with Fiona and all the stuff that came in, which was tins of soup, we could give out two or three. Now we’re back to doing one.” Harvey understands times are hard for everyone right now, but hopes the holiday season was a positive one for the community. “I just really do want to wish people a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, and thank you so much for the support that they are giving in the community,” said Harvey. “Without it, we certainly wouldn’t be able to do even what we’re going to do, so thank you to everyone for that.”

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