Penticton Salvation Army volunteer rings in the giving season

Every year at this time 97-year-old Joe Knypstra can be found hanging around the government liquor store collecting spare change.

Major Miriam Leslie

Major Miriam Leslie

’Tis the season.

Every year at this time 97-year-old Joe Knypstra can be found hanging around the government liquor store collecting spare change.

Some people walk by pretending not to notice but most are very generous, knowing in their hearts their money will make someone’s Christmas a lot merrier.

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With bells in hand and a smile on his face, just the way he has for the last 13 years, Joe will once again this season be doing his regular tour of duty as part of the Salvation Army Christmas Kettle Campaign.

Starting “Red” Thursday, hundreds of kettle volunteers will be giving their time to bring in money for the increasing numbers of less fortunate helped year round by the Salvation Army.

“When I’m standing by the kettle and people come around it gets a lot more like Christmas, everybody gets in the Christmas mood,” said Joe, who spends more of his time inside Cherry Lane Shopping Centre these days. “It’s a little warmer in there than outside. I really like it, it makes me feel great. I’m 97 now so I’m not sure how much longer I can do it, but I’ll do it as long as I can.”

Salvation Army pastor Major Miriam Leslie can’t help but smile when she talks about one of her favourite volunteers.

“Joe is just so loving and joyful and he always makes you laugh, makes you feel like your the only person in the world,” said Leslie. “You can just tell he loves helping people and having him help us every year is just incredible.”

A baker by trade in his younger years, Joe’s life took a dramatic turn for the worse when, as a member of the Dutch resistance, he wound up in a Nazi concentration camp during the German occupation of The Netherlands.

Torture was a daily routine for him and the other prisoners, however, unlike many of his friends, he did survive.

After his release, while it did not come easy, he learned to forgive, a large part of that coming from joining the Salvation which: “made me a better person.”

According to the pastor there is still time for people to join Joe and the other kettle volunteers.

“We can always use more helpers,” said Leslie. “It’s fun for families at Christmas or to split a shift with a friend or by yourself. “Everybody who helps, even if they can just do a two-hour shift, everybody makes a difference.”

All of the money donated here stays in the community for the work the Salvation Army does, including the upcoming Christmas hamper program.

“With those hamper applications what we’re seeing is a lot of grandparents raising children which has been a surprise this year,” said Leslie.

This Thursday, Nov. 24, at 10:30 a.m. at Canadian Tire there will be a campaign kickoff with local dignitaries and volunteers.

Until Christmas Eve kettles will be set up at Canadian Tire, Safeway, Save On Foods, London Drugs, Wal Mart and Superstore from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Anyone wishing to volunteer can sign up at the Salvation Army Church at 2469 South Main Street or by calling 250-809-0601 or online at rotundasoftware.com/volunteer/pentictonsalvationarmy.