Christmas program will help almost 700 people this year
Members of the Salvation Army are working to help almost 700 Norfolk residents through the Community Christmas Program. Those helping with the program include, from left, Simcoe Family Services Coordinator Terri Simmons, volunteers Tracey Toews and Doreen Roche along with family service workers Nicole Bouw and Eileen Ryerse. JACOB ROBINSON/Simcoe Reformer
Could your family use some help during the holidays?
If so, there is still time to register for the Salvation Army's Community Christmas Program.
For each of the past four years, the Simcoe Community Church has paired area residents in need with local sponsors that provide things like a warm meal, toys for kids and other goodies to make the holidays a special one.
The Salvation Army does a blitz for the program in early November, but is still taking registrations.
“We encourage people to get in ASAP,” said Terri Simmons, family service coordinator at the Simcoe Community Church. “We do a two-week blitz the first two weeks of November and that's when we want to register the majority of people but we don't cut it off.”
Simmons said the program usually helps 650-675 people each year. About 350 of them are returnees and the rest are new.
This year the numbers are lower than expected, but not necessarily because there are less needy families in Norfolk but possibly because people think the chance to take part in the campaign is over.
“The sooner people can get in the better,” Simmons said. “Because we understand that people's circumstances can change or somebody new could move into the community and we want that opportunity to be there for anybody that is struggling.”
Those interested can register by calling the church at 519-426-3640 or call/text 226-567-0255. They're also able to stop in and register at 184 Colborne St. North. Each applicant must provide a rent receipt, proof of income and ID for every member of their family.
More than 30 area sponsors take part in the program each year while a large group of volunteers assist with the application process.
“It's great that we can all work together to serve the community,” Simmons said. “Four years ago we assumed the duties of the Norfolk Christmas Exchange because the ladies who were doing it retired ... We're very thankful that the community at large has been very supportive of that. It's worked out very well.”
The reaction of the community members and families utilizing the program tends to be the same each Christmas.
“They're overwhelmed by the generosity of our community, which is wonderful to see,” Simmons explained.
In addition to its sponsors, the program is also supported by the Christmas Kettle Campaign. A total of 18 kettles are currently located at various places around the county with funds donated going towards not only the Salvation Army's efforts at Christmas but year round.
Volunteers willing to stand at a kettle are always needed. Shifts are two hours at a time, and volunteers can work as many shifts as they please. Locations and shift times are posted at simcoechristmaskettles.ca.
“The more people we have that are able to stand at the kettles the better off the community is going to be,” Simmons said.