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Salvation Army in Okanagan seeing dramatic rise in families seeking Christmas hampers

File photo of a donation to the Salvation Army. Global News

Staff and volunteers at the Salvation Army in Kelowna are setting up a makeshift toy shop where parents will be able to pick gifts for their children to put under the tree this holiday season.

And this year, with rising inflation, Christmas will be financially tough for many people.

“The difference is the circumstances of our runaway inflation, which is just causing so many people to live closer to the edge,” said Mark Wagner of the Salvation Army.

Click to play video: 'Salvation Army’s 2023 Christmas Kettle Campaign begins'
Salvation Army’s 2023 Christmas Kettle Campaign begins

So far, 700 households have applied for a Christmas hamper — a number that has already surpassed last year’s total. And with a week left to register, that number will rise.

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“The increase tends to be families who are working, which is a bit different than people who may be on social assistance and have struggled for a little while,” said Wagner. “But now we’ve got families who are working families and needing to come (for help).”

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At the Salvation Army in West Kelowna, it’s a similar story with an unprecedented amount of people in need.

“We anticipate that we will have more people this year than we’ve ever seen before,” said Jennifer Henson.

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BIV: Report finds Christmas spending will likely be down

In the West Kelowna area, many will be needing help for the first time — in addition to rising inflation, the region was also hit hard by the destructive McDougall Creek wildfire.

“We have a lot of families we’re connected to with children who lost everything in the fire who were uninsured,” said Henson. “And so we’re making sure that all of those kids are going to be having something under the tree this year when they wake up.”

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Appointments for hampers have been filling up so fast that the program has been expanded.

Henson said they’re extending times into the evening hours to accommodate new families who are reaching out for assistance.

Click to play video: 'Huge Shortage of Christmas Trees this Year'
Huge Shortage of Christmas Trees this Year

As Salvation Army organizations prepare to serve a lot more people, they are doing so while facing dwindling donations, as fewer people are in a position to give.

“We certainly need them more than ever,” Wagner said of financial donors. “We just want to say that we appreciate them, supporting their neighbours who are struggling this year.”

Those needing a Christmas hamper can register online in Kelowna or West Kelowna. The program ends on Nov. 24.

Click to play video: 'How to stick to a budget this holiday season'
How to stick to a budget this holiday season

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