The familiar sights and sounds of Salvation Army red kettles are back in the Central Okanagan.
The organization kicked off its annual fundraising campaign Friday afternoon at Stuart Park in Kelowna.
“We’re trying to raise $850,000,” said Major Mark Wagner with the Kelowna Salvation Army, which also serves Lake Country.
“That is, of course, to sustain our Christmas program, and also our programs throughout the year.”
This year, donations are needed more than ever.
At the Kelowna Salvation Army, the number of people accessing services during the first half of 2022 compared to the same time period last year is up by 34 per cent.
Wagner attributed the spike to the rising costs of living.
“We’re looking at the double-barreled shotgun. We’re staring down inflation on the one hand and interest rates on the other hand,” Wagner said.
“And so if you’re someone who’s living close to the edge, you can get kind of tipped over the edge pretty quickly.”
The Westside Salvation Army echoed that sentiment, adding it, too, has seen a huge jump in people accessing services.
“The demand is very high,” said Capt. Jennifer Henson. “Sixty-five per cent of the visits we had this year are new folks coming in for help.”
While those needing help are from all walks of life, seniors are making up a big proportion.
“We have a lot of seniors who are on a fixed income, who are literally choosing between feeding themselves or turning the heat on,” Henson said.
She also attributed the financial landscape as to why they’re seeing an increase in requests for help.
“One hundred per cent. The No. 1 reason why people have come to see us is because of the cost of housing,” Henson stated.
The Westside Salvation Army has a goal of $225,000 this year for its kettle campaign.
Henson says it’s a goal that may not be easy to achieve because even donors are being strained financially.
“We recognize to reach that goal this year is probably going to be harder than it was last year because of the pressures that everybody is facing financially,” she told Global News.
“But we also trust that if everybody gives what they can, somehow it’s going to work out.”
Henson said people who have given in the past may not be able to give this year, or perhaps a smaller amount, but stressed it all will add up to help those in dire need.
“If everybody can give a little bit without, you know, stretching themselves too far, then we’d sure appreciate that,” she said.
In West Kelowna, 50 households have already applied for a hamper — double the 25 at this time last year.
In Kelowna, there are already 465 hamper applications compared to 404 at this point in 2021.
“That’s a fair increase of applications already, and we’re not finished registering by a stretch,” Wagner said.
Both locations are also appealing for kettle volunteers, as bell ringers are key to collecting as many donations as possible.
Those interested in picking up a two-hour shift are asked to call the Salvation Army in either Kelowna or West Kelowna.
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