The Central Okanagan chapter of The Salvation Army raised a record-high $800,000 in donations from its this past Christmas season fundraising campaign.
Lt. Darryl Burry, lead pastor for the church, said the donations helped 560 families and ensured 1,100 children had gifts under their Christmas tree last month.
“It was a record breaking campaign for us and that’s all because of the generosity of our community,” Burry said at a breakfast reception Friday morning for donors and supporters of the Salvation Army Christmas fundraiser campaign.
“When you consider that about 25 per cent of Canadians carry cash these days, but still the Kettle campaign alone raised $327,000 in cash donations, that is just amazing.”
Burry also noted that the Santa Shuffle Christmas run fundraiser in December had 400 participants, which again was a record-high for this annual event, and he saluted the transit drivers who were committed to the Santa bus running even though they were in the midst of a strike for a new contract.
“We are all blessed to have people in our community so willing to help others who are struggling,” Burry said. “Thank you for caring.”
Francis Cheng, a financial portfolio manager with Scotiabank, was the keynote speaker at the breakfast, talking about how the Salvation Army has played a role in his life and the contribution of his co-workers and their employer to the Christmas campaign.
He recalled as a child living in a Hong Kong government subsidized residential unit, where he and his parents and sister lived in a 400 sq.ft apartment, where the tenants on each floor shared a common bathroom.
“What I can still remember is a big red sign that I came to realize for The Salvation Army, who had a presence on the first floor of one of the complex buildings, there to help people,” he said.
When he moved to Canada in June 1975, the family expanded with the birth of his brother later that year, but hardship was to follow.
His parents divorced, which stigmatized them in a negative way within the Chinese community, and then his mother was told to go on welfare in order to stay home and look after the kids.
“In Hong Kong, we had our grandparents to look after us but in Canada my mom was now on her own. So my parents divorcing was a stigmatizing thing, and going on welfare was another stigmatizing thing for our Chinese culture,” he recounted.
“But we came to realize that Canada was a very caring country.”
Cheng is active with his Scotiabank co-workers to foster that sense of community caring for those in need, setting a target of fundraising target of $15,000 this year, which would be matched by the bank.
“We have to have faith in trying to make a difference for others. Every man for himself is not what Canada is about. Canada cares, our community cares and there will always be people in need,” he said.
Tamara Faitala, the Salvation Army volunteer coordinator, said 1,000 volunteers put in 8,000 hours during the five-week Christmas fundraising campaign.
“Only through volunteer awareness and support, can we do what we do,” she said.