The Salvation Army’s kettle campaign kicks off today in locations across Bracebridge and Gravenhurst, giving locals a chance to help stock the shelves at two local food banks.
Bell ringers will be out collecting donations at the kettles every Friday and Saturday until Christmas eve as well as the entire week leading up to Christmas. Locals can find them at Sobeys, LCBO, Canadian Tire and Terry’s Independent Grocer in Gravenhurst as well as Walmart, LCBO, Canadian Tire and Gagnon’s Independent Grocer in Bracebridge. Salvation Army Captain Kam Robinson said their team is feeling hopeful about this year’s efforts after pulling their kettles mid-campaign last year due to COVID. The funds from the campaign play a vital role in covering costs for the food banks as it makes up about 30 to 40 per cent of their annual fundraising.
“We do rely on donations of physical food, but that’s not always available and it may not always be the things that are needed,” Robinson said. “We do quite a bit of purchasing week to week. We definitely purchase bread and milk on a very consistent basis and things like fresh produce as well because we really feel it’s important to bring healthy food to the people that we serve.”
The fundraising goal for the campaign is $46,000 in Bracebridge and $30,000 in Gravenhurst. On top of food costs, the funds help to cover other aspects of the operations, including building utilities, maintenance costs and their Christmas assistance program. The two food banks usually receive proceeds from the Salvation Army thrift stores, but with frequent closures due to COVID, the stores haven’t been bringing in any money.
“We’re losing money through those avenues of fundraising, so it’s so much more important that we have things like the kettle campaign because there’s quite a loss of funds through our thrift stores right now,” Robinson said. “We know they’ll get back on their feet because they run really well in these communities and people really love shopping there, and the donations are great, so it will just take a matter of time to recover from the loss that COVID presented.”
The need for the two food banks has increased since the beginning of the pandemic, she said, and with Christmas season approaching, every little bit helps. Muskoka residents can donate to the campaign in a number of ways, starting with dropping change or bills into the kettles. Donors can also contribute by tapping their credit cards, debit cards, Google Pay or Apple Pay with options to donate $5, $10 or $20.
It’s a wonderful way to give, Robinson said, and all the money stays local. For those who can’t contribute money, there are still lots of volunteer slots open. For those without time or money to give, a little bit of encouragement still does a great deal of good.
“Even if you don’t drop anything in the kettle, just say hello and thank you for volunteering or whatever you can do to spread kindness and joy. That is huge,” Robinson said. “Our people are working very hard this time of year. It can get stressful, so that little bit of kindness and encouragement can go a long way.”
To volunteer with the local kettle campaign, call or text kettle coordinator Emily Gribbin at 705-641-2563. For updates from Salvation Army South Muskoka Ministries, visit their Facebook page.