Need never goes away.
“Even if the economy is picking up, Christmas comes at a time of year when other expenses are high,” said Christine Simmons, Salvation Army community ministries director. “People have to pay higher utility costs and winter clothing for the children. All of those things, it all seems to come at once.”
Simmons said the Salvation Army has more than 500 children on their list to receive presents this year and she is projecting the demand for hampers to be about 800.
“People want to provide a good Christmas for their families, parents want their children to have a good Christmas,” said Simmons. “It’s a very stressful time for many people.”
The good news is that the annual kettle campaign and other events like the Penticton high schools’ 10,000 Tonight food drive are doing well. The annual student-driven food bank drive happened Dec. 1.
“One of the stories I heard from one of the parents was they couldn’t believe how generous people were when they went to their doors,” said Simmons. “They had their bags all ready, so it was very encouraging for the school kids.”
Simmons said they offer the students as much support as they can, even arranging to have some food ready when they get back to the school after collecting food.
“The 10,000 Tonight drive and the annual Toy Breakfast that usually follows a week after is always very uplifting for us,” said Simmons. “It just shows how much the community cares.”
This is Simmons’ 12th Christmas in Penticton, and for her, it’s one of the busiest times of the year. She starts preparing for it in the summer. By the time Christmas Day rolls around, she said she is ready to collapse.
“I keep going knowing that there is a need. That’s why we’re here, to help people who are in need,” said Simmons. “It’s the folks that are going to receive the assistance we can give, but it’s also the support of the community that helps make it possible.”
But, she said, they still need help. With more than 500 children on their list for gifts, she encourages people to help out by taking a tag from their Angel Tree at Wal-Mart and buying an appropriate gift to drop off in Santa’s sleigh there.
However, the need in the community doesn’t end at Christmas. Food and funds collected during this charitable season help to support the food bank’s work year round.
“We distribute between 350-400 hampers every month; that’s 900-1,000 people,” said Simmons.
“We rely so much on the food that comes in through the Christmas season. It’s an ongoing thing, people don’t stop being hungry just because they have received their Christmas hamper.”