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Calling all Santa Clauses: Kentville Salvation Army in ‘urgent’ need of toy donations

Capt. Kelly Fifield of the Kentville Salvation Army and volunteer Beverly Burton were among those helping to set up a toy store at the community church on Dec. 19. The organization is in “urgent” need of donated toys.
Capt. Kelly Fifield of the Kentville Salvation Army and volunteer Beverly Burton were among those helping to set up a toy store at the community church on Dec. 19. The organization is in “urgent” need of donated toys. - Kirk Starratt

KENTVILLE, NS - With only days to go before Christmas, the Kentville Salvation Army needs help to make sure there will be toys under the tree for girls and boys in need.

Volunteers were helping pack Christmas hampers and setting up a toy store in the community church on Dec. 19. Capt. Kelly Fifield said the majority of the toys donated so far came from members of the public reacting to a recent call for assistance put out over Facebook.

Some donors have said they’re sorry that they’ve only been able to donate an item or two but Fifield said the Salvation Army is incredibly grateful for this. If everyone could donate a toy or two, they would have more than enough. Some area businesses have also stepped up.

The organization provides gifts for children in need up to age 12 while teens up to age 16 receive gift cards. Parents of children in need have been assigned times to visit the toy store on Dec. 20 and 21 to walk around with a volunteer and pick out a gift for their child.

Fifield said they realized that with 587 children registered this year – including 93 teens - the charitable organization was facing a shortfall of toys. She said people don’t necessarily think about how they can give until Christmas approaches.

“Sadly, that trend puts us in a little bit of a panic because we recognize that our need is great and we’re not seeing those gifts come in,” Fifield said.

There weren’t many toys left in storage from 2016. They try to give every child a main gift valued around $40 or $50 and then a secondary gift. Congregation members stayed after church on Dec. 17 to set up tables and pull out all the toys and gifts on hand.

Fifield said they changed their thought process on what they’d be able to give out, recognizing that they might be able to provide only one gift to each child. Even after spending close to $5,400 on toys the previous week, they realized they only had enough for about 150 children.

Fifield said it has been incredible seeing people help fill the need after making an urgent plea to the community. They are very grateful for the support.

As of Dec. 19, they had enough toys for approximately 300 to 350 kids, about 150 items short of meeting the need. Fifield said there were more donations arriving that afternoon and some people were donating cash to buy more toys.

“All we can do is just pray that people continue to support and step up and we need to trust and believe that it’s going to come in,” Fifield said. “I don’t want people to think it’s too late because it’s not.”

They’ll be accepting toy donations at the church for the rest of the week. Those collected after Dec. 21 will be kept in storage for next Christmas so hopefully the organization can avoid a similar shortfall. Fifield said this would be a huge relief.

She said that with only three full-time staff members, the Kentville Salvation Army depends on Valley generosity and their volunteers are “invaluable.” They couldn’t do what they do for the community without them.

Volunteer paying it forward

Salvation Army member and toy store volunteer Beverly Burton of Lower Canard said she’s been involved with the organization her entire life. Continuing to support its charitable work is important to her.

“My family didn’t have a lot growing up and the Salvation Army was always there at Christmas time to make sure that we had food and toys,” she said.

Burton said she’s raising her daughter with the understanding that not everyone has as much as they do. It’s important to do something every year to help families in need.

“If anyone has ever reached out to help you, then reach out and help someone else,” Burton said.

She said a large portion of the Valley population is probably just one pay cheque away from not having a Christmas or not being able to pay the rent.

Kettle volunteers still needed

Fifield said on Dec. 19 that although they’re closing the gap, 2017 Christmas kettle donations were still lagging behind. They were at $71,949, compared to $73,640 at the same point last year.

An overall goal of $147,000 was set for this year’s campaign, including kettle donations and walk-in and mail-in donations. The goal for the kettles specifically is $122,000. If goals can be reached, these would represent new fundraising records for the Kentville Salvation Army. The campaign concludes Dec. 23.

Fifield said they remain confident that they can still set a new fundraising record but in order to achieve this they have to be able to put kettles out. There are several kettle shifts still in need of volunteers. If you have time to donate, call campaign co-ordinator Les Harris at 902-690-5703. Shifts can be as short as two hours.

Fifield pointed out that these funds support the not-for-profit organization’s charitable work at Christmas time and throughout the coming year so every dollar counts.

“A big thank you to those who have contributed to the kettle campaign and to those that continue to do so, whether it’s standing on a kettle or putting change in,” she said.

The 13 kettle locations include the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation (NSLC) in Berwick; Foodland, Independent Grocery and the NSLC in Kentville; the Superstore, Sobeys, Giant Tiger, Walmart and Canadian Tire in New Minas; the NSLC in Wolfville and the Superstore, Sobeys and NSLC in Windsor.

People can host an online kettle or make an online donation to the Kentville Salvation Army campaign by visiting www.fillthekettle.com.

Kirk.starratt@kingscountynews.ca

Click here for an earlier story about this year’s kettle campaign.

Click here for a story on the Salvation Army Angel Tree.

Click here for a story on a recent toy drive held in memory of Jacob Stern in benefit of the Kentville Salvation Army.

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