Celebrate the Season of Giving with the Salvation Army
The Salvation Army of Fort McMurray helps support locals with food and clothing
Imagine being unable to afford diapers or baby food or facing eviction because you can’t pay rent or imagine finally being offered a job, but you can’t afford to pay for those needed certificates.
These are realities for members of the Fort McMurray community who are considered low income. And it’s where The Salvation Army of Fort McMurray can step in with a hand up.
The Salvation Army’s Community and Family Services is a frontline service for low-income families and individuals.
“Family services provide the needs to whoever comes through our doors and has a genuine need,” explains Dianne Rice, community and family services coordinator.
The mission of this department is to provide clothing, food, financial assistance, and referrals to other agencies and programs.
That assistance could mean help with rent arrears or the security deposit for a family to secure low-income housing, says Rice. It could be for people in arrears with their utilities or to have them re-connected.
The division works with a number of partners including Alberta Works and Alberta Health Services.
“If someone has a job opportunity, and the employer needs certification such as OSSA or CSTS, we can help with that,” explains Rice. “If someone has been successful in finding employment, we can help them get their work boots for site.”
Sometimes, it’s just a hug that’s needed and a friendly ear.
The Christmas Kettle Campaign
The Salvation Army’s annual Christmas Kettle Campaign is a major fundraiser for this division to offer its year-round help to low income, near homeless and homeless members of our community.
“Christmas is just a special time of year; a time of giving and offering help to people.”
The goal of this year’s campaign is $200,000 and it ends on December 24. Residents can make donations in the Kettles at seven different locations throughout the city; including Canadian Tire, Walmart, Peter Pond Mall, Real Canadian Superstore, Stoneycreek’s Save-On-Foods, Michelle’s Your Independent Grocer and Sobeys in Thickwood.
During the holiday season, the division also helps provide families and individuals food hampers and toys for children.
Rice notes they are always in need of gift cards from such stores as Walmart and Superstore because of the variety of goods available, and gas stations as recent increased demand for financial assistance has become a challenge.
“We’re the back-up when it comes to emergency food. If people have an appointment next week with the food bank, we can help them now,” continues Rice. “If children are involved, we’ll give them a purchase order to Walmart to be able to buy something for them. Or if people are struggling and need diapers or baby formula or baby wipes, we can help provide those.
“One thing about us is family services meets the needs all year round.” – Dianne Rice of The Salvation Army of Fort McMurray
“One thing about us is family services meets the needs all year round. Family services are always available to try and meet the needs of whosoever comes into the office. It doesn’t make a difference. We look after newborns to seniors.”
From April to October this year, community and family services assisted 4,837 adults and 1,020 children.
During Christmas 2017, it provided food and gifts to 561 adults and 559 children.
Rice describes community and family services as the heart of The Salvation Army, which is the largest non-governmental direct provider of social services in Canada.
It’s been in Fort McMurray since 1979.
“We serve with an open heart and we listen. We listen with not just our ears, but with our heart.”
She explains that someone may come in to see her claiming all they want is a winter jacket, however through conversation, their true need goes beyond that jacket.
“It could be because they’re lonely. It could be because they’re hurting inside. It could be because they have an addiction. They could have come out of an abusive situation.
“There is so much that happens in my office. When we sit there and talk, people open up because they feel comfortable and safe,” she reflects.
“I’ve met so many people. Whether it’s people struggling from life on the streets or whether it’s people in the community earning a lower wage and struggling. It could be somebody working out on site and the whole bottom just fell out of their life.”
It could be that mom or dad dropping off their children at the same school your child attends or the smiling woman sitting behind the reception desk at the dentist’s office or the guy delivering the water to your office or the person sitting beside you at the training session.
“It could be anyone that comes through that door. It doesn’t always have to be the homeless. It doesn’t have to be someone that’s working at a low-income job. It could be anyone. “Circumstances can change in a heartbeat and I have seen so much of it through the years.
“You never know when it can knock at your own door. There are people that always thought that everything was going well; they were secure in their jobs. Then all of a sudden everything just went and they’ve had to come and had to ask for help.
She notes that some past clients who have turned to community and family services for help have returned to give back, whether by donation or to offer a service or volunteer with the kettle campaign.
Rice remembers one mother with two children who visited her one day asking for just over $100 so she could have her income tax return completed so she could receive her refund.
“She didn’t have the money to pay. We had never covered income tax, but my heart was stirred because that was her need; a hundred and something dollars. I said, ‘You know what? We’ll take care of that.’ So we did,” said Rice.
“A year and a half later, she came into my office. She had moved away down south to get away from the situation. She said, ‘I’m back in town just for a couple of days and I wanted to let you know what you did for me that day. To you, it might have been small, but for me it was big. My family and I got away from a very difficult situation and I just wanted to stop in and say thank you for helping me.’”
Another client came in and painted the room that houses the mat program.
“There have been people I know that said “The Salvation Army helped me and I want to give back.’ There are people that say, ‘You helped me and I want to be able to help somebody else,’ and they will give a donation.
“Whether it’s $50, $100 or if it’s $2; it’s given in thankfulness.”
For more announcements and updates, please visit the Salvation Army of Fort McMurray’s Facebook page.