Increasing demand for services is putting pressure on two local charities as they begin their Christmas fundraising campaigns.
Both the Salvation Army and the Abbotsford Food Bank and Christmas Bureau are seeing more people come through their doors this year than in 2011, although it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly why.
Deb Lowell of the Salvation Army speculates that the spin-off effects from the 2008 economic downturn are still impacting people, with many suffering job loss or under-employment.
She said the number of people served by the agency each month is now up to about 4,000, although the total referred to detox or substance abuse treatment has gone down.
“It would indicate the main reason people are coming through our doors is poverty,” Lowell said.
Food bank manager Dave Murray said the agency is currently serving an average of 4,000 people a month – up by about 500 from last year’s average.
Most of these are single people, single moms with kids, and seniors. About 18 to 20 per cent of the clientele is considered the “working poor.”
Murray surmises that rising costs in difficult economic times are affecting more and more people.
“I’m not sure (why our numbers are up), but I guess people are finding it harder,” Murray said.
Lowell said the increased demand means the Salvation Army has to work hard to stretch its money and ensure integral services are not cut.
She said the organization has done this by, for example, not filling positions left when staff resign, and trying to boost community sponsorship and volunteer participation.
Lowell and Murray said funds raised through their Christmas fundraising campaigns are crucial to the work they do all year.
The Salvation Army’s goal for its holiday campaign is $500,000 – collected through donations made online, by phone or mail, and at the 14 red kettles that will be set up at locations in Abbotsford and Mission, starting Saturday.
Donations made in the community remain here, Lowell said.
More volunteers are still needed to man the kettles and ensure that as many shifts as possible are covered. Those interested are asked to call the kettle hotline at 604-309-0660.
Toys can be donated through the Angel Tree program, which begins in Sevenoaks Shopping Centre on Dec. 1. The public is invited to take a child’s tag from the tree, purchase a gift and then return it unwrapped.
For more information about donating to the Salvation Army, go online to careandshare.ca, call 604-852-9305, or visit the Centre of Hope at 34081 Gladys Ave. A $5 donation can also be made by texting HOPE1012 to 45678.
The Christmas Bureau has set a fundraising goal of $600,000, and is also collecting donations of toys and food.
Businesses, schools and individuals are also invited to sponsor a family, which involves purchasing Christmas gifts and food.
Distribution of food hampers and gifts begins Dec. 4. For more information or to support the Christmas Bureau, go oline to abbotsfordchristmasbureau.org, call 604-859-5749 or visit 33914 Essendene Ave.