Salvation Army Okanagan sees dramatic increase in families seeking Christmas baskets – Okanagan

Salvation Army staff and volunteers in Kelowna are setting up a makeshift toy store where parents can choose gifts for their children to put under the tree during the holiday season.

And this year, with inflation rising, Christmas will be financially difficult for many people.

“The difference is the circumstances of our runaway inflation, which is pushing large numbers of people to live closer to the edge,” said Mark Wagner of the Salvation Army.

So far, 700 households have requested a Christmas hamper – a number which has already surpa*sed last year’s total. And with one week to sign up, that number will increase.

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“The increase is generally among working families, which is a little different than people who are eligible for welfare and have been struggling for a little while,” Wagner said. “But now we have working families who need to come (for help).”

At the Salvation Army in West Kelowna, it’s a similar situation, with an unprecedented number of people in need.

“We anticipate that we will welcome more people this year than ever before,” Jennifer Henson said.

In the West Kelowna area, many people will need help for the first time: in addition to rising inflation, the region has also been hit hard by the destructive McDougall Creek Fire.

“We have a lot of families that we deal with with children who were uninsured and lost everything in the fire,” Henson said. “So we’re making sure all these kids have something under the tree this year when they wake up.”

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Basket appointments are filling up so quickly that the program has been expanded.

Henson said they are extending hours into the evening to accommodate new families seeking help.

As Salvation Army organizations prepare to serve many more people, they do so while donations decline because fewer people are able to give.

“We certainly need it more than ever,” Wagner said of financial donors. “We just want to tell them we appreciate them, supporting their neighbors who are struggling this year. »

Those in need of a Christmas hamper can register online in Kelowna or West Kelowna. The program ends on November 24.

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