OTTAWA — The Salvation Army is launching its annual Christmas kettle drive facing what it says is a level of need not seen since the Second World War — even as COVID-19 makes fundraising more difficult.
The iconic red kettles will start appearing in malls, grocery stores and other establishments across the country on Monday as the Sally Ann seeks to raise $23 million this year to help Canadians in need.
Funds raised through the campaign remain in the community where they are donated, with the money going to pay for Christmas hampers, meals and clothing along with drug-recovery programs and training.
Salvation Army spokesman John Murray says that target is 10 per cent more than in previous years — even though the charity has received five times the normal number of requests for help since the pandemic began.
“We’ve not seen the increase in in demand for assistance like this since post-World War Two,” Murray said. “That’s incredible when we consider that.”
Even meeting that modestly increased fundraising target could be a challenge, however, as COVID-19 threatens to wreak havoc on the Salvation Army’s normal way of doing business.
That starts with great uncertainty around exactly how many kettles will actually be out in the community as pandemic-related lockdowns in different parts of the country keep malls and other businesses closed.
“I think of Manitoba where we’re not going to be able to have Christmas kettles out, at least until the middle of December,” he said. “There are parts and pockets of Quebec that’s the same way.”
The Sally Ann is also facing a potential shortage of volunteers as many of those who have typically helped the fundraising drive are older Canadians who are more at risk from COVID-19.
While the charity is providing volunteers with personal protective equipment as well as training to ensure they stay safe, Murray says the actual recruitment of Canadians to help is a challenge.
“The actual recruitment, we’re certainly concerned about that,” he said.
“Annually, we would put out about 2,000 kettle locations across Canada during the holiday season. It remains to be seen whether we’re going to be able to have all those kettle locations filled this year.”
The Salvation Army isn’t the only charity facing challenges; many have previously raised concerns about a lack of volunteers and dried up fundraising due to COVID-19 even as demand for help skyrockets.
The Sally Ann says there has been a 19-per-cent increase in the number of people visiting the charity this year because of delayed wages, while the number saying they are homeless has doubled since 2019.
Like many other organizations, it is hoping that Canadians unable to donate in person will do so online at FilltheKettle.com or by phone at 1-800-SAL-ARMY (1-800-725-2769).