The Salvation Army bells started ringing for the first time on November 24 as the Swift Current Salvation Army began their 2018 Christmas Campaign.
A kick off event was held at the Swift Current Mall last Saturday to begin an intensive 30 day fundraising drive as they take aim at a $220,000 fundraising goal. These funds support the Salvation Army in delivering supports to individuals and families during the Christmas season, but it also supports the year round operations of the Food Bank.
Last year they raised a total of $231,775, which surpassed their 2017 goal of $215,000. In 2016 they collected a record total of $249,000.
“I think on a per capita basis, Swift Current is one of most giving communities I’ve ever seen, or ever been involved in, or even heard about across Canada. I think it’s so exciting. But they also give to so many other agencies,” Swift Current Salvation Army Major Don Grad said during the opening.
In Swift Current, Salvation Army kettles are situated at The Miracle Room, along with Walmart, the Pioneer Co-op, Pharmasave, and the Liquor Store.
The Miracle Room also hosts the Angel Tree, where there are 98 tags that supporters can take and purchase one specific Christmas gift requested by a child.
Major Grad notes that the 105th annual Christmas campaign in Swift Current has always been a grassroots giving campaign, and he estimates their average donation is $100 or less.
“Those $20 donations, they are all part of what makes it happen,” he said. “That total is built on $100, $20, $5, the two dollar coin dropped in the kettle, it all adds up.”
He is also grateful for the corporate donations which pushes their campaign totals even higher, including a large $50,000 donation from SWT and other generous supporters.
“This time of year I just walk around saying ‘thank you Jesus’. I’ll be in the building and I’ll see a bunch of volunteers doing something…it all comes together.”
He said the overwhelming support from the community is something they do everything they can to show their gratitude for.
“I always want to say thank you. I don’t want the community to ever think we take them for granted. In a way we expect we’re going to meet our goal, but we don’t take people for granted, or supporters. We really want to say thank you. We appreciate you. Because you help us do what we do.”
Swift Current Mayor Denis Perrault has seen the importance of the work of the Salvation Army through his volunteering efforts during their Monday supper program.
“Salvation Army is a very important organization across the country, and a really special one here in Swift,” Mayor Perrault said at last Saturday’s launch event. “You’ll hear the bells ringing, you see the kettles all over the City. But there is a need year round.”
He said the Christmas Campaign is important to the community because of the wide spectrum of people it supports.
“It’s families, it’s moms, it’s dads, it’s kids, it’s grandmas and grandpas. It is a wide swath of demographic across our community and the Southwest. We have an opportunity to help those people, and there’s lots of different ways that you can do it. I’d urge anyone, if given a chance, to please come on out. I know you’d have fun. It is very well organized and I really enjoy helping out with. And I love hearing the bells, in the malls and in Pharmasave, the liquor stores, and all over the city. Hearing those bells warms my heart and it means its Christmas time.”
Majors Don and Elizabeth Grad and gearing up for their fourth and final Christmas Campaign in Swift Current. They will be retiring in the community in June to conclude 35 years as officers with the Salvation Army.
“It’s our fourth Christmas, and our last one, and we hope to go out with a bang,” he explained. “It feels special, but at the same time each year we’ve always tried to do our best. To be good stewards. To be careful that we do the best job with hampers.”
“Between hamper applications finishing and then the hampers going out, there’s actually a bunch of work to get it all organized. And the same thing with the toys. Each year we try to do our best to make sure we do it to the best of our abilities. And so as we approach this year, we come at it with that same goal – we want to do our best.”
He shared that the support the Christmas Campaign provides to people delivers relief at a time of year when people need it the most. He told the story of two individuals who have offered to volunteer after receiving support in past years.
“Of course there’s a number of people we help, who just because of life’s circumstances are on Social Services,” he noted. “And each year we help people who have lost jobs, and of course with the downturn in the oil a number of years ago. I remember one lady, she was in tears when we gave her the hamper. They were always the ones that always put the $100 in the kettles.
“This year, (Sandra Brong, Community and Family Services Coordinator) has told me about two families in particular, who we’ve helped for the last couple of years,” he explained. “But they came back in and they wanted to talk to her specifically to say ‘thank you for helping us. That made Christmas really good for us and our kids. And now we’re back on our feet, we’ve got our jobs again.’ And they said ‘How can we give back? You helped us, we really understand it in a new way.’”
“It had hit them in a new way just how special it was when you needed it to receive something.”
“I just thought it was interesting they came back. And they specifically said to Sandy, ‘you helped us. It really meant something. We’re back on our feet. We want to give back some how.’
“To me that’s really cool. That reminds me that there are a lot of people we help, and it’s one or two Christmases. And it’s powerful for them. And we’re doing it because we want to share the love of God with people. That God loves them. And we can’t do everything for everyone of course, but we kind of do what we can for those that we’re able to.”
HOW YOU CAN HELP
Supporters of the Salvation Army Christmas Campaign can lend their support through their time or donations.
Volunteer kettle bell ringers are needed during the coming weeks leading up to Christmas.
“This time of year that’s a big need we have. Again, we get great support…but if someone would like to volunteer a couple of hours that would be a perfect thing that we always need,” Major Don Grad said.
Individuals who can donate the time for a two hour shift at a kettle can leave their name with the Salvation Army office at 306-778-0515.
The CP Holiday Train will roll into the city for a rare evening arrival on Thursday, December 6. The train’s 8:15 p.m. arrival time will be highlighted by a 30 minute concert featuring Terri Clark, Sierra Noble and Kelly Prescott at 8:30 p.m. Visitors viewing the train are invited to bring a non-perishable food donation for the Food Bank.
Another major event is Hutterite Appreciation Day on December 11, where the Salvation Army shows their appreciation for the year round donations supplied by the various Hutterite colonies across the Southwest.
Volunteers can also sign up to assist with the Salvation Army’s Christmas Dinner on December 25.
However, community fundraising efforts have been underway for over a month now.
In mid October the FCC Drive Away Hunger Food Drive generated a donation of food.
On October 20, the Pioneer Co-op hosted a pancake breakfast which included a food drive in support of the Salvation Army. Pioneer Co-op is also a financial supporter of the Christmas Campaign.
On October 31, Trailview Alliance Church organized another hugely successful Halloween Food Drive.
In addition, the Salvation Army received a generous $3,045 donation raised during The Haunting of Lil-Sur-Mur Haunted Town event which was held during late October.