Salvation Army brings hope to the struggling in Amherstburg

By Aaron Jahn

In almost every community across Canada the Salvation Army brings out their familiar kettles to raise money around Christmas, Amherstburg is one such community.

Though the Essex Salvation Army has been serving Amherstburg for many years, this is only the second year that they’ve had a kettle in Amhertsburg, located in Wal-Mart.  The kettles provide significant funding for their programs.  Lieutenant Kristen Gray says that this is a small step in raising their profile in Town.

“It’s easy to be present in the community where we exist as a church  and as a food bank and stuff like that, I would love to raise our profile in Amherstburg, the limitation on that is simply time,” said Gray.  “Doing things to make people aware of us and we’ve only had the kettle in Wal-Mart for two years, I hope that as people see us there collecting money, there’s a recognition that we’re also there to serve the community too.”

Serving people with dignity is the prevailing practice at the Salvation Army, and is something they work hard to provide those they serve.  And they serve many people throughout the calendar year.

“We average about 100-120 families a month, a lot of those are repeat visitors coming to our food bank.  We will help people with other needs, depending what they are, we don’t have specific guidelines for our services we can help people with financial needs as they arise on a case-by-case basis,” Gray says.  “We try to serve people with dignity, that’s really important to us to recognize that everyone deserves to be treated well. Whether they’re well off or not well off and we recognize that it takes a lot of courage sometimes to access a food bank or to ask for help and we try to respond as compassionately as we possibly can and to accommodate as best we can as well.”

They also provide more than just food. They will also work with people on an emergency basis who need clothing or some financial help.  Gray says that every case is evaluated on its own and that they have general guidelines, not specific.  This gives them leeway to make decisions to help people as much as they can.

“We don’t have a framework in the sense that if they have so much disposable income at the end of the day we’ll serve them or we won’t serve them, we really take it on a case-by-case basis.  Occasionally we have to turn someone away, but it’s rare.  It’s rare because most people that don’t need it don’t want to come looking for it anyways,” says Gray.  “We do our best to help them.  We really believe that caring for people is so important and the basis for that is our Christian faith.  Jesus cared for people and we believe that we in turn should care for people as well.  If we have the resources we’ll do it and we’ve been really blessed that the community has been really generous.”

They rely on donations to help them help others, the donations can be monetary, food or clothing.  One issue they sometimes face is less than gently used clothing and furniture being dropped off, meaning they need to pay dumping fees to dispose of unusable goods.

“One of two things, financial donations are always great because we can determine where the need is greatest and direct it there, but having said that, people like to participate themselves and certainly any canned and dry packaged foods are always welcome and helpful.  Peanut butter is always in huge demand, and kids lunch items are always in need and those kinds of donations are a huge help to us.”

“We would just ask that people would be aware that if they are donating something to the thrift store that it has a resale value.   We wouldn’t give people garbage or expect people to buy things that are garbage.  And it all comes back to dignity, just because people are in need doesn’t mean they don’t deserve to have quality food and quality clothing and all of those things and that’s really important to us.”

Gray says that if anyone needs assistance their doors are open and they will do their best to help people, but they do have a screening process to make sure that their limited resources are being utilized on those truly in need.

“We do ask that they bring proof of income and monthly expenses.  So we look at what kind of income they have coming in for the month, whether it’s social services or ODSP or if they’re employed and not making a lot of money, versus what kind of expenses they have, heat and hydro and rent and feeding their family.”

If you or someone you know is in need of assistance, call their family services worker Shirley at the Salvation Army Church: 519-776-4628.


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