The familiar bells echoing in stores around Guelph have returned this holiday season despite the coronavirus pandemic.
While the kettles and their bell ringers are back in their usual locations, organizers say the feel is a bit different this year.
“We are running a similar campaign but how we do it has changed significantly,” said Major Clarence Bradbury, the kettle campaign’s co-ordinator.
Volunteers will be wearing masks, some will be wearing face shields and each kettle will be supplied with hand sanitizer, wipes and, in some cases, a plexiglass shield.
While those items have become customary in 2020, it’s all very brand new to the kettle campaign.
“We’re doing everything possible to protect those who will be at the kettles,” Bradbury said.
Along with the personal protective equipment, there’s been another new addition that has brought the fundraiser into the 21st century — a touchless tap option for debit or credit cards, and even smartphones and smartwatches.
“That will be a great addition,” Bradbury said.
The Salvation Army tested the feature out last year at some kettles in Guelph and this year the plan is to have it available at all locations.
It has also lost a number of volunteers who have chosen not to participate this year due to the pandemic, but has had a fair number of brand new volunteers.
“Something positive that comes out of COVID-19 is that many people have additional time on their hands,” Bradbury said.
The Salvation Army in Guelph hopes to raise $345,000 this year and like any year, the funds will go towards purchasing toys, groceries and other essential items for families in need.
But it also goes towards helping families with rent and utilities, prescriptions and keeping an emergency food pantry stocked, along with emergency accommodations, counselling referrals and other types of support.
Due to the novel coronavirus, families in need will not be receiving food hampers this year as the Salvation Army has opted to go with gift cards for grocery stores.
The campaign has also recruited some champion volunteers, such as Mayor Cam Guthrie, city councillors and the University of Guelph’s director of athletics, Scott McRoberts.
“More than ever, there’s a great need for help in the community for food, for clothing, for shelter and we don’t want anyone waking up on Christmas morning or the holidays without a special gift,” McRoberts said during the kettle campaign launch ceremony.
McRoberts and his family will be volunteering their time at a kettle this year, and he said he’s been trying to recruit those around him to volunteer as well.
There are other ways to donate to the campaign besides the kettles: donations can be made online and cheques can be mailed.
The annual toy drive is also running alongside the kettle campaign.
New, unwrapped toys can be dropped off at any of the six fire halls in Guelph on weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and at the Salvation Army church weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Another way of donating a toy is to purchase one online and ship it to the Salvation Army. It is also accepting gift cards in $25 denominations from Walmart and Stone Road Mall.
More information can be found at The Salvation Army Guelph Citadel’s website or by calling 519-936-9360.
Bradbury said a big thank you has to go out to the community for standing with the organization during the holiday season amid the pandemic.
“There’s a great spirit of generosity in the city,” Bradbury said. “People understand the great challenges we’re facing to help people in need. I think we’re going to see that response.”
— With files from 1460 CJOY’s Mike Hodges
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