The Salvation Army is one of those very visual charities that everyone has heard of, but perhaps not everyone knows what they actually do in our Oceanside community. I am only going to mention a few of their many programs.
First, there is the Food Bank on Wembley Road in Parksville. The Food Bank provides supplemental groceries to about 500 families a month and this number jumps to about 1,200 families in December. That’s a lot of families! They provide a monthly hamper and home delivery is available during the pandemic. Proof of need is a requirement to receive assistance.
Secondly, the soup kitchen operates out of the Mt. Arrowsmith Salvation Army Community Church in Parksville where a hot mid-day meal is served 4 days a week. A $4 donation is suggested and although many cannot afford this, no one is turned away. It serves up to 120 meals a day and strives to not just meet people’s physical needs, but to provide a welcoming and safe place.
The Salvation Army also operates two thrift stores — one in Parksville and one in Qualicum, as well as a furniture store in Parksville. These stores are run by staff and supported by volunteers. The revenue are used to support the food bank and soup kitchen and all donations raised in our community stay here.
Salvation Army thrift stores had to be closed for three months last year. Paid staff who were working at the stores were reassigned to the food bank and soup kitchen, while volunteers stayed home safe. That meant store revenues were way down, but staff costs stayed the same. Store revenues remain down significantly.
Over the Christmas season, most of you will have seen the various Salvation Army kettles parked outside grocery, hardware and liquor stores, so you may think they now have lots of money. However, the money they collect from the kettles every year is designated to last them until the summer of the following year, so that money still doesn’t erase the financial burden caused by the pandemic.
Finally, the Salvation Army provides other emergency and family services, as well as helps people escape violence and addiction. For example, assistance may be provided in the form of clothes, furniture, groceries or counselling.
Recently, I saw a local Facebook post where a young family had to abandon their home and many of their belongings for health and safety reasons. They were staying in a motel and reaching out for help from the community. So many people responded by posting, “contact the Salvation Army! They’ll help you!”
That’s what they do — they are there when the most vulnerable people in our community need them most, 365 days a year.