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‘Having to reach out a difficult thing’: Kelowna Salvation Army on Christmas assistance

Click to play video 'With a 47 per cent increase in the number of people accessing services in the first half of this year compared to last, the Salvation Army in Kelowna is expecting a greater need for Christmas assistance' With a 47 per cent increase in the number of people accessing services in the first half of this year compared to last, the Salvation Army in Kelowna is expecting a greater need for Christmas assistance
With a 47 per cent increase in the number of people accessing services in the first half of this year compared to last, the Salvation Army in Kelowna is expecting a greater need for Christmas assistance – Nov 20, 2019

While Christmas is supposed to be cheerful and a bright time of the year, for some people it’s anything but.

The holiday season can bring financial and emotional hardships.

But the Salvation Army in Kelowna says it’s here to help.

“For most, having to reach out for help is probably one of the most difficult things that you ever have to do,” said Salvation Army Pastor Darryl Burry.

“What we would want the community to know is that if you are in the place of struggle, where you are having a rough time right now, we want to journey alongside with you.”

READ MORE: Salvation Army foodbank in Kelowna in need of donations

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This week, the Salvation Army is registering people and families in need for its Christmas assistance program, which provides food gift cards and toys for children.

“The past couple days have been very busy here,” Burry told Global News. “We’ve had a couple hundred families that have walked through our doors to sign up for assistance this Christmas season.”

And several hundred more are expected.

Jamie Johnstone is a Salvation Army employee who is helping with the registration.

She knows all too well how difficult it is to ask for help.

Click to play video 'Salvation Army foodbank in Kelowna in need of donations' Salvation Army foodbank in Kelowna in need of donations
Salvation Army foodbank in Kelowna in need of donations – Jul 10, 2019

“I’ve been in that same spot,” she said. “Oh my goodness, I am someone who suffers with anxiety, so stepping in the door was the most brave thing I had done that year, considering the year that I had.”

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A number of years ago, before she was an employee, the Kelowna woman was freshly divorced and in a tough position. She decided to reach out to the Salvation Army for help.

“I couldn’t make Christmas happen, I was facing actually being homeless with my kids,” she said.

Last year, more than 600 hampers were distributed in the Kelowna area, and this year the Salvation Army expects to hand out at least that many, if not more.

READ MORE: Volunteers needed for Salvation Army pilot project

The organization reported troubling statistics about the growing need in the community.

It said that there’s been a 47 per cent jump in the number of people accessing its services in the first six months of this year, compared to the same time period in 2018.

It attributed the hike largely to the growing cost of living.

“Dual-income households tend to be the area where we thought in the past if both parents are working, they must be doing OK. That’s not the reality anymore,” Burry said.

Johnstone said she’s happy she reached out for help when she needed it most.

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“I was totally overwhelmed with the love and acceptance I felt,” she said.

Click to play video 'Okanagan families needing assistance this Christmas season urged to register this week for the Salvation Army’s annual Christmas blessing program' Okanagan families needing assistance this Christmas season urged to register this week for the Salvation Army’s annual Christmas blessing program
Okanagan families needing assistance this Christmas season urged to register this week for the Salvation Army’s annual Christmas blessing program – Nov 27, 2017

Johnstone said she hopes her personal story of rebounding from hard times is encouraging for others who may be currently struggling.

“It’s nice to be able to connect with people and go ‘Yeah, it gets better from here,’” she said.

Hamper registration takes place all week at the Salvation Army church on Sutherland Avenue.

Those who would like to register are asked to call the office to make an appointment.