With recent layoffs in London, Ont., The Salvation Army is seeing more people requesting assistance for Christmas this year. Hundreds of low-income families and individuals in Canada will depend on The Salvation Army to celebrate Christmas.
“At any time people can be hit with an unexpected crisis,” says Nancy Kerr, Program Services Manager for The Salvation Army’s Community and Family Services in London. “From job loss to unexpected bills to relationship breakdowns we are replacing tears of defeat with smiles of hope.”
Last year, The Salvation Army in London provided 5,600 food hampers and 6,300 bags of toys to people who were struggling.
“I didn’t want Christmas to come,” says Gina, a single parent of two boys. “I’d gone back to school, was on a limited income and had to pay for child care. What I could afford at Christmas wasn’t much. Receiving a turkey dinner with all the fixings and toys to put under the tree lifted a huge burden. That was two less things I had to worry about.”
During the Christmas season The Salvation Army Community and Family Services office in London moves into a 60,000 square foot space at The Weston Fair Entertainment Centre where hundreds of volunteers sort, label and pack food hampers and bags of toys. From December 14-18, low-income families and individuals register for assistance and pick up the items.
“We serve 200 families an hour,” says Kerr. “That’s a lot of need.”
The Christmas Hamper provides a gift card to purchase the meat of choice, potatoes, carrots, a box of food containing the items needed to prepare a traditional Christmas dinner and a bag of toys for children 12 and under. While the assistance is greatly appreciated, many of us could never imagine needing to stand in a line to ensure your family will have a nice Christmas.
“There was one man, a father of seven, who kept his head down the whole time I was talking to him,” says Kerr. “Between head nods I could see tears trickling down his cheeks. Another man, clean cut and in his mid-30s said, ‘I can’t believe I’m here. I used to give to this program.’ Everyone has a story and The Salvation Army strives to ensure that struggling families can experience the same joy that other families do on Christmas morning.”
Photo: London Salvation Army Community and Family Services packs toys for struggling families at Christmas