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Christmas campaign makes history

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Local Salvation Army workers are beaming after wrapping up a busy and successful Christmas campaign that made history with the amount of money, food, and toys donated.

“It was our best Christmas campaign ever,” enthused Lt. Ryan MacDonald.

“We had more people, we had more toys, more food,” echoed community ministries manager Jill Pernsky.

Lt. MacDonald said more than $100,000 was raised this year from the kettle campaign, the mail-out appeal, and food and toy drives.

“We made history with our financial intake,” he remarked. “Our kettles broke the existing records, as did our appeal.”

That, in part, was thanks to a nearly $7,000 donation from Tom Jones Corp. that pushed it over the top.

But Lt. MacDonald noted giving was up all around—and the Salvation Army was able to help more than 600 people have a merrier Christmas as they picked up hampers last week.

“We had more families this year so overall a lot more people, more children,” Pernsky noted.

And with more than $22,000 in toys donated by the public, the Salvation Army was able to give each child “more than a couple of toys.”

As reported last week, the bounty of playthings came in through The Bargain Shop’s toy drive, 93.1 The Border’s “Burst a Bus” initiative, the first-annual Carl’s Eatery gift drive, and the “Stuff-a-Cruiser” campaign, as well as many other donations from area businesses and individuals.

“I’m still trying to find out if this was the biggest toy mountain we’ve had in Fort Frances,” said Lt. MacDonald, adding as far as they are aware, it’s the most toys ever collected here.

“We have our own personal records at the Salvation Army but we don’t have community records,” he noted.

“I’ve worked on five or six campaigns and we never used to give out toys,” Pernsky recalled. “The focus was on the food.

“Food is the most important but giving the children gifts is so special.”

Pernsky said one recipient just cried and sobbed when she came in and saw the Christmas hamper her family was receiving.

“She was hugging everyone and bawling,” Pernsky noted. “To see joy in people’s faces to know that they can give their kids something that personally they can’t right now due to circumstances.”

She added all the recipients were so thankful.

“It’s a lot of work but it’s all worth it,” Pernsky reasoned.

“[Our] new facility hasn’t been open for a week already and we’ve had a ton of tears flow through the door,” echoed Lt. MacDonald.

“That says a lot. It’s exciting,” he enthused. “It’s good to be a part of it.”

Lt. MacDonald added he was thrilled to see people donating their time to the Salvation Army, in addition to all the money, food, and toys.

“You need thousands of hours filled by hundreds of different people,” he said about the kettles, which were placed at Walmart, Canadian Tire, Safeway, and the LCBO in Fort Frances, as well as in Emo and Rainy River.

“So that’s a task in itself,” Lt. MacDonald noted. “We never missed a single kettle shift purposely this year, which I’m very proud of.”

And it’s not just about volunteers for the kettles.

“It’s people coming in here on distribution days, or helping us clean our old building or putting hampers together,” Lt. MacDonald said, citing a number of different groups and individuals helped out.

“Things got done much quicker thanks to all the volunteers who donated their time,” he stressed.

“What I valued most this campaign was I didn’t have to seek help, like previous years,” he added. “It was there, it was available.

“People called the Salvation Army asking what they can do to help, which made everything so much easier.”

Lt. MacDonald also noted a lot of pieces just fit together beautifully this year.

“I think Salvation Army has an ideology about us that we can be trusted with these big donations and financial contributions because we’re very transparent with our numbers and people know that; recognize it,” he reasoned.

“We’re all in the same boat and I think that’s what the community recognized this year.

“We’re trying to help the same people,” Lt. MacDonald said. “We’re trying to build partnerships that are going to last and persevere to make a difference.

“The community has shown this year that we can work together and build upon ideas and dreams.”

Lt. MacDonald said the final piece of the puzzle is to thank the close-knit team that exists in their congregation, and the people who come out and help—not just at this time of year but all year round.

And after such a successful Christmas season, Lt. MacDonald believes the excitement is going to continue in the new year as they fully move into their new building at 351 Scott St.

A soft opening is slated for Jan. 21, with Daylin James offering a Gospel performance at Knox United Church here.

Tickets cost $20 in advance, available at the Salvation Army and International Travel Services, or $25 at the door.

Proceeds will be used to purchase two new freezers for the Salvation Army’s food bank.

A grand opening will take place the following weekend, with divisional and territorial leaders set to be on hand.

“We invite the entire community to come out and celebrate with us because we have a lot of celebrate,” Lt. MacDonald enthused.

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