Sally Ann keeps giving

Low funds no obstacle to continued goodwill

Lower donations will not prevent the local Salvation Army from giving out hundreds of food hampers and children’s gifts this year.

The Sally Ann’s West Hill Community Church staff say this year a surprising number of requests for Christmas assistance came in, starting a month earlier than normal – including an increase in applications from young working families struggling with the economy.

Wini Ramprasad brings her 1-year-old niece, Chelsea Khameraj, to make a donation to the
West Hill Salvation Army at Wal-Mart.

Church pastor Major Calvin Collins has been at the West Hill branch for the last seven years and he’s not surprised by the increase, just by how early they were.

“I was surprised to get [calls] that early in September because we don’t usually get [calls] before October,” he says. “Normally by Thanksgiving you’re sure people will be calling about Christmas. But this year there were a few early ones.”

Last year the local Salvation Army branch helped 275 families in total.

Sally Ann spokesman Major John Murray said West Hill is expected to help 420 children this year. However, Collins said those both of those numbers were very likely to rise significantly in the next few days.

“We’re still taking applications up until [Dec.] 16,” he explained. “We’ve got another 40, 50 families coming in.”

And with an estimated average of four kids per family, Collins said this year the church could easily end up distributing more than 600 toys to needy children.

It’s a task Family Services Coordinator Lisa Blake has been extremely busy with the last few weeks. Ever since the snow began to fall the busy mother of one has been inundated with requests for help.

“Her phone never stops,” Collins says.

In the church’s basement, Blake oversees hundreds of toys that have already been bagged and arranged by age group. Nearby, boxes full of collected food items wait to be sorted and placed into hampers.

Blake and a team of volunteers have to pack 200 grocery bags and more than 200 toy parcels for Dec. 16. Two days later another 200 grocery bundles will have to be ready.

However, there are a number of challenges affecting West Hill’s food bank resources. There have been more requests from parents for expensive items like diapers and baby formula.

And Blake said the amount of corporate donations from the Salvation Army’s Railside Road distribution office has also declined.

As a result this year the families depending on food packages from the West Hill Salvation Army will not be getting any chickens or turkeys. Instead, the church plans to give out grocery hampers filled with $50 worth of food.

“Hopefully with the money that they’re saving with the toys and the extra food they themselves can then in turn by their chicken or their turkey or whatever they would want,” she said.

Still, Blake emphasized some of the positive efforts of the local community.

“We received 152 boxes of mashed potatoes from West Hill Public School,” she said. “That was really good.”

And Collins said financial donations to their church haven’t been affected by the recession.

“We’re as good as we were last year, actually. Unlike other charities, ours have been maintaining.”

The West Hill Community church relies on the $20,000 raised from their three kettles to help provide a variety of services year-round.

With the Salvation Army’s Christmas fundraising now in full swing, food and toy donations can be made in person at West Hill office on 305 Morrish Rd. (near the corner of Old Kingston Rd. and Military Trail).

Financial donations can also be made at the Morningside Wal-Mart, LCBO, Pickering Town Centre and online at