Hampers help families have a Merry Christmas

Ken Kellar

It may have taken a lot of hard work and dedication, but the results are well worth the efforts.

The local Salva tion Army managed to “adopt” 27 families and send out more than 200 Christmas hampers to those in need in the week leading up to the holiday, ensuring that some families in the district were able to celebrate Christmas with fewer worries.

Fort Frances Salvation Army community ministries manager Jill Pernsky said that getting the hampers ready to go was only possible thanks to the help of those in the community.

“We are so blessed that people understand what we do,” Pernsky said.

“There were a lot more families that could have been adopted, but we’re just so grateful that the ones we could were done.”

Pernsky noted that each one of the hampers that went out for Christmas would come in at an average value of about $260, adding up to roughly $52,000 of food for those in need. Factoring in the value of the toys that were donated or collected bumps that price up even more.

“The toys, I think would be about, I’d say [we sent out] $8000 or $9000 worth of toys,” Pernsky said.

“Thank goodness for the Burst-A-Bus and the Bargain Shop, that made up the majority of our toys. We purchased some gift cards that we gave to the older children, the teens. We don’t want to buy them anything because they don’t know if they’re going to like it.”

In all, Pernsky estimated that about 17,000 pounds of food went into the hampers this year, which makes a direct impact to the families who receive them.

“The more we have the better it is,” Pernsky said.

“Then the people come and the tears start to fall, and I’m bawling half the time too. I just can’t get over the generosity of this community, they give, give, give, and that just amazes me every year.”

As a part of the efforts undertaken by the Salvation Army during the holidays, the Christmas Kettle Campaign helps to support the purchase of food items for the hampers, and Pernsky notes that this Christmas’s campaign will likely cover that $52,000 figure for the hampers, as the organization can only collect so much through donations.

“Stuff-a-Cruiser is a big help for our food,” she said.

“Then we order things; we get turkeys, we buy the hams, we buy potatoes, eggs, the food that we don’t get from Stuff-A-Cruiser, obviously, the perishables and such. We make sure that families have turkeys and singles have the hams and we get carrots, so we try and make it a real good Christmas for people. Everybody got bread, and boxes of oranges. We were lucky this year to have money to do that with.”

While Pernsky selects the families who are eligible for adoption, she explained that the Salvation Army wouldn’t turn anyone away if they demonstrate a need for one of the hampers.

“Sometimes parents, when we’re speaking about adopted families, parents just can’t cope with all their bills,” she said.

They’re barely getting by paying their rent, because it’s so high, their heating, and there’s no money left over to do Christmas for their kids. And this allows them to do this for their kids. Pretty sad if you don’t have a Christmas. I can’t think of anything more heartbreaking than not being able to do that for your child or your children.”

The goodwill of helping out families in need pays itself forward, Pernsky continued, as families who receive a hamper usually contribute to the program in the future when they have regained financial stability.

“It’s something they remember we did for them and when they’re back in financial stability, they donate back, or they’ll adopt a family, so it does trickle on,” she said.

“And it’s true, most of us have been in that position where, you know, the car broke down and you’ve got to pay out $900 or $1000 and you just don’t have that. So we don’t turn people away if they come in and tell us what’s going on in their life. We don’t turn anybody away if we find they’re in need.”

But time and again, Pernsky returned to just how grateful she is to the community itself as people and businesses turn out in droves to participate with the program, either through donations to the Kettle Campaign, or by adopting families and ticking items off their lists.

“The fact that they just give, give, give, I am just so thankful,” she said.

“Hopefully more people will get on board. It’s a good project for, say, a family, because they can get their kids involved in going out and purchasing the gifts and the food, and then they realize there are other people out there that don’t have, and then they grow up to possibly adopt a family of their own.”

“Anytime anybody wants to adopt a family, we’ll never say no,” she continued.

“It’s just an awesome, awesome thing. And the community… I start to cry every time.”