The West Shore Salvation Army is preparing for what’s expected to be a busier year than usual for their Christmas Assistance Program.
The program provided food assistance and children’s Christmas gifts for nearly 300 families in 2021, said Capt. David Hickman with the Connection Point Church and Resource Centre. This year, more than 325 families have already signed up and he is expecting that number to top 400.
“It’s the usual things – the cost of living keeps going up, and it seems like more and more families are struggling to make ends meet,” said Hickman. “We don’t really think the aid we give out is a lot, but to them, any little bit of assistance is such a relief.”
Each year, the program provides gift cards to purchase food ranging from $100 to $250 depending on the size of the family receiving it. Parents also choose toys to give to their kids.
Hickman said the resource centre is transformed into a toy store each holiday season to ensure every family is able to find the best gifts possible for their kids, rather than simply having to gift whatever toys they are handed.
“We’ve worked in other areas where the families just show up and are given a bag full of toys,” said Hickman. “We give them that dignity to come in and actually pick what is best suited for their child.”
Given the expected demand this year, Hickman said they have already expanded their planned pickup time from just one day with three families coming in every 15 minutes, to an entire week of pickup days where four families will come through every 15 minutes.
A community organization is set to host a toy donation drive for the first time this year, he said, to help collect as many items as possible.
Colwood Fire Rescue will be collecting donated toys on Dec. 10 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. outside the Thrifty Foods location on Island Highway. As with toy donations being accepted at the resource centre (101-737 Goldstream Avenue), all toys must be new and unwrapped.
Hickman said toys for children of all ages are needed, as are online cash donations at saconnectionpoint.ca/give, which are go toward the grocery gift cards. Beyond the Christmas program, the Salvation Army is also collecting donations of winter clothing, and the annual Kettle Campaign is set to kick off in full force in the coming days.