Unable to put out as many Christmas kettles as usual or station volunteers around those that were in use due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Thompson Salvation Army was bracing itself for a serious decline in donations throughout December but ended up shocked and in awe.
“I figured it would be about 60 per cent of what we normally raise and it would be tough to exist on 60 per cent of $48,000 [the mount raised in 2019] when you have to operate a food bank 12 months a year,” Salvation Army Thompson director Roy Bladen told the Thompson Citizen Jan. 4.
Fortunately, however, in no small part due to a $20,000 donation from Vale and smaller contirbutions from individuals, businesses and schools, the Salvation Army actually exceeded last year’s total by nearly $3,000.
“We received more money in the mail than ever before. The final result was $50,900-something,” said Bladen. “I’m still in shock, actually, still in awe.”
One-quarter of the money donated by Vale is earmarked for toys, something the Salvation Army wasn’t able to buy many of this year due to restrictions on non-essential purchases, though they luckily had enough on hand to meet Christmas hamper demand combined with some they purchased in November. The rest will go toward the church’s food bank, which serves more than 600 people a month in Thompson, many of them children.
The number of food bank clients actually went down early in the pandemic, contrary to what Bladen expected, then rose about 18 or 20 per cent in September and October.
With the money raised over Christmas, the food bank should be able to make it until Thanksgiving without any other major fundraising if demand remains the same, which Bladen expects it will.
“There’s still lots of need,” he says.
The food bank still has about three-quarters of a $20,000 donation made earlier in 2020 by Giant Tiger.
‘We have that up our sleeve to use when we need it so we’re in a very fortunate position for the food bank to be in and I’m just overwhelmed by it all,” says Bladen.
The Salvation Army thrift store in the Westwood Mall by Giant tiger remain closed for now, Bladen says, because staff didn’t feel safe returning to work even when the provincial government exempted thrift stores from public health orders banning non-essential purchases in person
“We are hoping now come Jan. 9 that Mr. [Premier Brian] Pallister will take off the red and put us back on orange and my staff will come back to work and we can start selling some clothes again,” Bladen says. “When we do open, we’re not going to be able to take any donations for a while because even though we were closed and we had signs up saying, ‘Please don’t drop off your donations,’ people have just been bringing it in and leaving it.”