In her short time volunteering with The Salvation Army Salmon Arm Ministries in British Columbia, Grade 12 student Karly Irmen has already helped to clothe and feed hundreds of people in need.

This past December, the same month she began volunteering with the Army, she raised $175, collected 32 kilograms of food and some clothes at the local mall. The following month for her capstone graduation project, she held a food and clothing drive for the Army at her school. Through morning announcements, hallway TV ads and other promotions, this time, the community responded in a big way. Karly collected 134 kilograms of food and 17 large garbage bags of clothing.

“It was a lot of work, and I didn’t get much homework done,” she laughs. “But I’m still shocked.”

Deceptive Appearances
Karly began serving at Salmon Arm Ministries because she required volunteer hours for scholarship applications. She thought of the Army because her family had previously donated to the Army’s food bank every week.

“I didn’t know a whole lot, but I knew enough of what happened there,” she says.

Her perspective soon changed once she became immersed in the work. “It’s been an eye-opener at times because I’ve seen some of the people around town and would have never suspected they would come in.

“They just look like regular people who had everything together.”

Welcoming Faces
Salmon Arm Ministries offers a food bank, shelter and church, providing for more than 2,000 people a month through their grocery and hamper program.

Karly volunteers every second Wednesday for four-hour shifts. Her regular tasks include filling shelves and tables, and taking people through the food bank so they can select the items they need. She enjoys helping people in this way, as well as the opportunity to show kindness.

“The one individual I remember most was obviously having a hard day and had to stop and talk on the phone with someone about her kids, and I could see that was hard,” she says. “She didn’t have to say much for me to pick up on that, but she was really thankful at the end of the tour.

“I hope that when people come, they can get what they need, feel safe to do so, and see some friendly, welcoming faces at the door.”

“There for Them”
David Byers, community services director for the past 19 years, says that Salmon Arm Ministries lost volunteers when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, but now has a solid and reliable group that is like a “big, happy family.”

“We couldn’t do any of this without volunteers such as Karly,” he says. “Some come every day, some come only for a couple of hours, but they just seem to all get along and it draws people in.

“There’s a diversity of need among the people who turn to The Salvation Army for help—and some don’t even know what they’re looking for. All we know is that they keep coming back, and if they need to talk and have someone listen, we are there for them.”

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