Generous community support helped the Salvation Army in Swift Current to have a successful Christmas campaign that provided food hampers to families and raised nearly $230,000 to continue its work in the community.
“I was very happy with the way the community responded,” Capt. Ed Dean said. “They reached out in many different ways. Monetary wise, in food, in toys, in volunteering of time, because those are all pieces to this campaign. It's not just a cash figure, because cash allows us to function throughout the year, but it's the other pieces of the community coming together and the different groups that have been involved.”
The campaign total on Jan. 6 was $228.014.99 and there were still some donations coming in, which will push this amount even higher.
“We are very pleased with that total,” he said. “The community has rallied around us and brought us to a nice finish.”
The amount raised is short of the goal of $260,000 for the 2019 Christmas campaign in Swift Current, and expenses will have to be carefully watched during the year.
“There is a gap, of course, and it means tightening up the purse strings and looking to see how we can do with less than what we were expecting, but we will do every effort that we can not to compromise the service that we provide in our community,” he said.
The Christmas campaign is the Salvation Army's main fundraising event in the community and the money raised will support various activities during the year.
“We have staffing costs, we have program costs, supplies for food and stuff like that,” he said. “So there are many different areas that these funds go towards and it's important that we are good stewards of our cash. We need to be responsible in what we do, and it is of utmost importance that we very carefully use the dollars that have been gifted to us.”
Many helping hands were involved with the campaign. Volunteers prepared and distributed just under 300 food hampers. Capt. Dean noted that hamper recipients were thankful for the support.
“We spoke with different ones who thanked us for that hamper,” he said. “We spoke with a lady even after Christmas and she said ‘What I didn't use, I shared with my mom.’”
The Christmas wishes of a large number of children came true, because community members removed all 297 tags on the wish tree in the Miracle Room and purchased the items on those tags for children.
“We were able to give people back some of their dignity in the way we did our toy store this year,” he said. “People were able to have some choice in selecting some of the toys for their children.”
Even a young girl’s wish for a piano was realized, because someone was able to donate an unused piano to her.
“Somebody has seen that wish still on the tree, and had a contact of somebody that wanted to get rid of a piano,” Capt. Dean recalled. “That young girl's wish was granted, because she was gifted with a piano. It's a Christmas that she will not forget. They arranged to have it delivered to their home, which was wonderful news.”
The campaign concluded on Christmas day with a community dinner, which was attended by around 120 people.
“We had a wonderful team of volunteers to greet them, we had musicians, we had an excellent meal of turkey and ham and all the trimmings to go with it, and then there were socks and ice cream for gifts,” he said. “I know socks and ice cream seem like a strange combination. Ice cream should have come in on time for the hampers, but it didn't, and so it was a nice surprise for people when we gifted them with some ice cream.”
The food drive during the Christmas campaign collected enough food items to keep the shelves at the food bank stocked at the start of the new year, but donations to the food bank are still welcome.
“We accept food bank donations all through the year,” he said. “And we do remind people that when they're making a donation, if they will be so kind to check the date, because we have seen food come into our food banks that is 25 years old. Sometimes things get pushed to the back of the shelf and you don't realize the date on it. … So it's important that people are conscious of a date on things and when it got a good date on it, there's less wastage.”
There will be some changes at the food bank in Swift Current towards the end of January, when food bank users will have more choice in selecting items for a hamper.
“We're going from a pre-packed hamper to a hamper that they actually walk around the food bank and they make some of the choices in what they would like to have,” he explained. “It will take some getting used to, but I believe it's a healthy change for our food bank users and we will see less wastage.”
Captains Ed and Charlotte Dean have been the Salvation Army corps officers in Maple Creek since 2007, and for the past year they have also been responsible for overseeing the activities of the Salvation Army in Swift Current.
“There are many working pieces to the Christmas campaign in Swift Current,” he noted. “It is a bigger scale than what we're doing in Maple Creek, but very much similar. We have learned that there are many wonderful volunteers. They give of many hours in many different ways that make this whole Christmas campaign possible.”
There was also a successful Christmas campaign in Maple Creek. The campaign’s fundraising goal of $50,000 was exceeded and an amount of about $64,000 was raised.
“There was a couple of new initiatives that happened in Maple Creek this year that allowed us to exceed that goal,” he said. “It's always exciting to see the community come up with some new initiatives.”
One of these was the Santa Shuffle, a five-kilometre fun run and a one-kilometre elf walk, that was well supported by the community.
“Every member of the family could participate and that was the nice thing about it,” he said. “We ended it with a pancake breakfast for the participants and the volunteers. So it was a busy day. We likely had 40 volunteers for that event.”
The Santa Shuffle in Maple Creek was part of a national event to raise funds for the Salvation Army in participating communities. The event in Maple Creek raised about $7,000.
“We were the smallest community in all of Canada out of 39 communities,” he said. “We were I believe number four in total funds raised out of those 39 communities. We beat out places like Saskatoon, Ottawa and Vancouver.”
The Santa Shuffle in Maple Creek raised enough funds to buy food for the school breakfast program for a whole school year. The breakfast program takes place twice a week, when volunteers prepare a meal in the Salvation Army’s commercial kitchen and serve breakfast to about 60 students at Maple Creek Composite School.
All funds raised during the Christmas campaign, whether in Maple Creek or Swift Current, stay in those communities and benefit local programs.
“We would like to say thank you to the community for being a great support for the Salvation Army and we encourage you to continue to partner with us so that we may do in our community what we are called to do,” he said.