Jail or Bail returns for Walmart charity campaign

Ken Kellar
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The end of another lockdown was just around the corner, but members of the local Salvation Army were electing to lock themselves up further for a good cause.

The Salvation Army and Walmart here in Fort Frances have joined forces for the Fight Hunger, Spark Change campaign, and what better way to spread awareness of a good cause than by hosting a Jail or Bail event? That’s precisely what was happening at Walmart, as throughout Friday and Saturday, members of the Salvation Army took their place in jail in order to raise money for those in need.

Salvation Army Fort Frances corps officer Arthur Heathcote, Salvation Army member XXX and Walmart Fort Frances store manager Cheri Dyck were each on hand to kick the campaign off with the Jail or Bail event. Heathcote explained the drive will last for a month in order to collect as much money as possible to help people in the district who find themselves in need.

“The Salvation army showed up at Walmart this morning and we were arrested,” he said.

“We’ve been thrown in jail for the Jail or Bail awareness fundraiser for the Fight Hunger, Spark Change campaign, which is done throughout Canada through the month of February and March. all of the funds that are raised from this campaign at this store stay in our community, so it’s a huge campaign for us. It helps to keep all of our food bank shelves stocked throughout the year, and Walmart is just a wonderful partner in being able to do this.”

The Jail or Bail event served as a fundraiser, but also as a way to grab the attention of shoppers as they pass by in order to let them know the month of giving has begun. According to Dyck, the campaign runs until March 10, with plenty of opportunity to give to the cause at Walmart in the event you weren’t able to get out and help your local Salvation Army member make their bail.

According to Walmart Canada, the goal for this year’s campaign is to provide 10 million meals to those in need through donations made at Walmart and to local food banks as part of the campaign. Heathcote noted there are several ways to donate to help those in need.

“People can go to the cash register and make a donation,” he explained.

“Or there are also food bags available for purchase, $10 and under, that an individual can purchase, and again, all of it goes toward the food bank.”

The month-long campaign is a joint venture between the Salvation Army, Walmart Food Banks Canada, Dyck explained. She noted that the campaign might be Canada-wide, but like Heathcote said, the proceeds raised here will stay here.

“What happens is local stores raise money and then Walmart will match the donation up to $2,000 per store as well,” she said.

“So the money that’s raised through the tills goes straight to our local food banks here in Fort Frances.”

A fundraiser to support establishments like food banks are important any time of year, but they carry an extra weight when they’re held up to the time we’re currently living through, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to challenge our idea of what normal life is, as well as put some people partly or entirely out of work. Of course, there’s also the aftermath of a spend-heavy holiday to contend with.

“There’s a Christmas fallout, a Christmas fatigue, that a lot of people are going to be experiencing or are experiencing currently with all of the Christmas bills coming in,” Heathcote said.

“So they’re going to be looking to organizations like us for support as far as filling their shelves to make sure the kids get fed. As well, with the ongoing pandemic we continue to see new people and families showing up at the food bank on quite a regular basis, and it’s solely because of programs like this that enable us to keep our doors open and make sure no one goes hungry in this town or in this district.”

For Walmart’s part, Dyck said the campaign is a good opportunity for the store to be active and involved in the community, in addition to its role as a larger store.

“It gets us involved in the community and let’s us know what we can do to do our part in helping the community,” she said.

“Not only Walmart but the many sponsors that go along with this like Kellogg, Coke, Pepsi, Post Cereal, they all pitch in and make part of the donation that each food bank receives as well.”

Following the Jail or Bail event and a weekend of fundraising, Heathcote shared on Tuesday morning that their efforts so far have raised $2,388.75 plus 81 bags of groceries ($810 in value).

Dyck noted the campaign also extends to www.walmart.ca, so those who prefer to shop online will also be able to make a donation to the cause. For more information about the Fight Hunger, Spark Change campaign visit www.walmart.ca/fighthunger, or visit Walmart Fort Frances before March 10.