The holiday season is all about tradition, and thanks to the easing of COVID-19 restrictions, The Salvation Army in Guelph is happy to see one of the season’s most timely traditions return.
“We’re excited that our Christmas food and toy hamper program is returning to in-person delivery,” said Major Peter van Duinen, Core Corps Officer and Pastor of The Salvation Army in Guelph. “We’ll be able to welcome people into our facility to spend a little more time with them than were able to last year. That personal touch is able to return, bringing back a little bit of tradition to our service delivery.”
As a result of the strict distancing measures in place last holiday season, The Salvation Army had to pivot to a drive-through service to facilitate its annual Christmas hamper program.
In 2020 the program provided gift cards for food rather than the traditional fully stocked food hampers. And although the gift cards did provide support to struggling families, Major van Duinen said the food hamper is a much more appreciated option. “It adds a special touch to the holidays when you can get a Christmas meal with your food hamper,” he said. “Additionally, the in-person distribution of hampers means we are able to offer not just the practical support but also the social and emotional support that a face-to-face interaction provides.”
The pandemic continues to present a variety of challenges to many people in Guelph. Major van Duinen said The Salvation Army hasn’t seen any significant decrease in the numbers of people seeking assistance. Over the last 12 months, The Salvation Army in Guelph has served over 10,200 unique individuals, including 9,200 households that received emergency food hampers, baked goods and produce. Over 1,000 people received assistance with clothing and baby items, 30 family were provided emergency shelter, and Salvation Army volunteers provided over 500 hours of visits to people in hospitals or shut-in due to Covid-19.
“Those numbers are on par from previous years,” said Major van Duinen. “However, last year our Christmas program did serve more people than in previous years. That included just over 4,200 individuals and over 1,100 children receiving toys. That’s a significant number of people that are coming to us for a bit of extra help this time of year.”
While Major van Duinen said it’s too early to determine whether 2021 demand will be higher or lower than in previous years, the Christmas application process is now underway, which means The Salvation Army’s Christmas Campaign is in full swing. The annual Christmas Campaign is vitally important to The Salvation Army, as it is the primary fundraiser supporting the organization’s community programming for the entire year. The Salvation Army traditional Christmas kettle volunteers can be found at various malls and locations across the city, accepting cash donations and offering convenient Tip Tap options that makes it easier to donate while respecting distancing protocols. Donations of new unwrapped toys are now be accepted as are non-perishable food items.
The Salvation Army encourages all donors to make their contributions of any kind as early into the holiday season as possible. This will help volunteers pack and distribute hampers and gift items so families have them in advance of the Christmas holiday. To donate to The Salvation Army’s Christmas Campaign, visit https://www.guelphsa.ca/donate.