Needs in the community are increasing, but the Salvation Army is hoping residents step in to help fill the gaps this holiday season.
In contrast to neighbouring communities, the Fort Frances Salvation Army is going ahead with its Christmas Hamper and Adopt-a-family programs, in full. Dryden and Kenora have downscaled to a gift-card only program, due to COVID-related concerns. But the Fort Frances chapter sees the need for a full program locally; many families have been hit particularly hard by COVID, and requests for help have never been higher, said Jill Pernsky, hamper coordinator for the Fort Frances facility.
“We’re having families come in who we haven’t seen before this year,” she said. “Those who have been laid off or had their hours cut down, and they’ve never come to the Salvation Army for help before now.”
Last year, the humanitarian organization assembled 207 hampers, of which 28 were adopted in the adopt-a—family program. This year, they’re hoping more will choose to adopt.
“We think it’s due to the facts of COVID,” said Pernsky. ”It’s increased grocery prices and clothing prices. Everything has gone up, and there are parents who are laid off or who are working, but still struggling to make ends meet.”
The Adopt-a-family program is one of the main ways the community can help this holiday season.
In that program, a family, workplace, school or other group, gets together to adopt a family in need, by providing a Christmas dinner and toys for the family’s children. The organization provides a wish list of food items, and toys, but it’s up to the adopting group to decide what to include.
“We provide a list of guidelines. A turkey, potatoes, stuffing, and we suggest at least two toys per child, but it’s left up to the adopting family, how much they want to give. There’s no limit,” said Pernsky. “The toys and a hamper make a wonderful difference to a family this time of year.”
Although everyone who applied for a hamper this year will receive one, being able to adopt a family is a wonderful experience on both the receiving and giving end, she said.
“Part of the adopt-a-family that I think is wonderful is families can get together and adopt,” she said. ”It’s great for kids to learn to put it all together for a needy family. I think it’s something that’s important.”
That’s part of the reason they opted for a full program, instead of gift cards, like other areas. Families who adopt tell her they have a lot of fun hand-selecting the items together, with each family member in mind.
“It’s such a wonderful thing to do together,” she said.
For those receiving a hamper, it can be an emotional experience.
“I’ve had people burst into tears when they come and see the hamper that people have provided,” said Pernsky. “Believe me, it gets emotional around here. A lot of tears. It makes it all worthwhile.”
When you make the choice to adopt, the Salvation Army does its best to match you with the size, age and make-up of family you’d like. Blended families can be the hardest to adopt, noted Pernsky. They tend to include larger numbers of children, which can be intimidating.
“But we can work with them, to help them out. Maybe they provide part, and we supply the rest. We can work it out,” said Pernsky.
Adopting a family isn’t the only way residents can help this holiday season. The annual Stuff-a-Cruiser event is going ahead, and is currently scheduled for December 5. In this event, shoppers at local grocery stores can purchase items to donate, and drop them with cruisers outside, to be donated to families in need.
The Bargain Shop is also holding its annual Toy Drive. It gets underway November 15, and runs until December 5, which is the store’s annual Fill a Sleigh Day. The store will also be donating 10 percent of all sales, excluding lottery, tobacco and pre-paid cards to the Salvation Army.
Anyone interested in participating in the hamper and Adopt-A-Family program can call the Salvation Army at 274-3871 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.