The Salvation Army is casting around for prospective Christmas kettle volunteers.
“We’re pretty desperate this year to get the kettles out,” said Captain Shannon Howard. “Many of our regular volunteers aren’t able to do it this year.”
Without people to sit with the kettles, Howard is afraid the Salvation Army may not be able to meet its fundraising goals this year. It hopes to raise $67,000 before Christmas.
“Every little bit helps,” said Ted Garland, who was manning the Christmas kettle at the Walmart entrance Thursday.
Garland, a retired teacher, came to the Yukon in 1973 for a canoe trip and never left.
He’s been volunteering with the Salvation Army for so many years he’s lost count.
Over the years he’s learned a few tricks of the trade.
“I don’t ring these that often,” said Garland, fingering some red and silver jingle bells. “They tend to drive people crazy.”
Even after all these years, he still can’t tell who is or who is not going to donate.
“Just because somebody isn’t dressed the nicest doesn’t mean they won’t be generous,” he said.
People tend to react to the kettles in one of two ways, said Garland.
They either acknowledge him or go out of their way to completely avoid eye contact.
“For some people it’s the fourth kettle that they passed today so you can’t take it personally,” he said.
Overall it’s been an extremely positive experience, said Garland. That’s why he keeps doing it.
“You get a double bang for your buck. You get to help those in the community that are in need and you’re also helping to support the people who are helping them,” he said. “The need has never been greater.”
It’s also a great way to catch up with old friends, said Garland.
“I’m constantly running into people I haven’t seen in a while,” he said. “It’s one of the benefits of the job.
This dearth of volunteers has come at the worst possible time for the Salvation Army.
“The Christmas campaign usually brings in a quarter of our shelter’s budget,” said Howard. “It’s a pretty vital part of our fundraising.”
Whitehorse may be a small city but it has a pretty big need.
The Salvation Army runs both a halfway house and a homeless shelter in the city.
The shelter, which has room for 19 people, is packed every night, said Howard.
It also serves 4,000 meals a month, including Christmas dinner. And during the holidays, it will also hand out about 80 Christmas hampers full of toys for needy families.
Right now the programming the Salvation Army offers is pretty basic, said Howard.
“It’s just shelter and a meal,” she said. “Our goal is to eventually offer more, to really help people get back on their feet.”
To do that they need to fundraise and the Christmas kettles are a big part of that.
Even a little bit of spare change goes a long way, said Garland.
“People think they have to give bills, but it’s amazing how the fast that change adds up.”
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