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Abbotsford charities face fundraising challenges

Volunteer Danielle Milette collects donations for the Salvation Army
Volunteer Danielle Milette collects donations for the Salvation Army's Red Kettle Campaign outside of the Save-On-Foods on Whatcom Road. The campaign is currently underway at 20 locations in Abbotsford and Mission.
— image credit: Vikki Hopes

Three social service agencies in Abbotsford are struggling to raise enough funds during their Christmas campaigns at a time when demand for programs and services is higher than ever.

Funds raised at the Abbotsford Food Bank and Christmas Bureau, the Salvation Army, and Cyrus Centre support the agencies for the work they do throughout the year.

Food bank manager Dave Murray said the organization has set a goal of $800,000. As of Monday, about $350,000 had been collected.

He said the food bank this year has experienced a hike of about 200 families needing support each month, bringing the total number of people served to as many as 4,000 people monthly.

Murray speculates that the hike in clients is due to challenges keeping up with cost-of-living increases.

"I think people are finding rents are going up, the cost of food is going up … It's just harder for people to make ends meet," he said.

The food bank operates as the Christmas Bureau at this time of year, providing gifts and food hampers for families who qualify.

It also provides the Sponsor-a-Family program in which registered families can be sponsored by individuals, businesses or churches to receive Christmas gifts.

Murray said there are currently more sponsors than there are families registered, and he encourages others to register to be sponsored.

Meanwhile, the local Salvation Army, which serves Abbotsford and Mission, is also facing challenges in its annual campaign, which has set a goal of $500,000. The total raised so far is about $130,000.

Spokeswoman Deb Lowell said demand for services has risen. For example, the number of meals served in the meal centre went up 11 per cent this year, while the number of "bed nights" of shelter rose 43 per cent.

The organization, along with other agencies, also began providing meals two nights a week at Hope Central in Mission, after the Union Gospel Mission closed its meal program.

Lowell said more than 5,000 people are served each month by the Salvation Army.

The organization's main source of fundraising at this time of year is the Red Kettle Campaign. There are currently 20 kettles in Abbotsford and Mission, and more volunteers are needed. Those interested can call 604-309-0660 to sign up.

The organization also runs its Angel Tree program at Sevenoaks Shopping Centre. The public is invited to remove a paper angel from the tree, purchase a new unwrapped gift for the child listed, and drop off the gift back at the tree.

Also seeking support during its Christmas fundraising campaign is Cyrus Centre, which provides services for at-risk youth.

Executive director Les Talvio said the centre has so far raised about $15,000 toward its $150,000 goal.

He said this is down significantly from where the campaign was last year at this time.

"There's just so much need out there. There are so many worthy places to give to," he said.

Cyrus Centre provides hot meal, showers, laundry, life skills, employment coaching, emergency shelter, and more to kids ages 12 to 18. As well, Cyrus House recently opened to provide four youths with a permanent residence with house parents.

In addition to funds, Cyrus Centre is looking for donations of items such as coffee, hot chocolate, sugar, toilet paper, bath towels, disposable cups/plates, girls' socks, boys' boxer shorts, and gift cards for Tim Hortons, McDonald's, and grocery stores.

For more information or to make a donation, call Cyrus Centre at 604-859-5773 or visit cyruscentre.com.

For more information or to make a donation to the Abbotsford Food Bank and Christmas Bureau, call 604-859-5749, go online to abbotsfordfoodbank.com or visit the facility at 33914 Essendene Ave.

Donations to the Salvation Army can be made by phone (604-852-9305), online (careandshare.ca), by texting HOPE1012 to 45678, or in person at either the Centre of Hope (34081 Gladys Ave.) or Cascade Community Church (35190 DeLair Rd.).

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