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  • Nov29Thu

    Guardian Angels

    Christmas partnership supports Penticton Salvation Army all year. November 29, 2018 by Kristin Ostensen
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    (Above) The Salvation Army’s Be An Angel campaign raised more than $43,000 last year. From left, Paulo Aranjo and Mackenzie Rangers, Valley First Credit Union; Rene van der Meijden; and Ed Kennedy (Photo: James Miller)

    "Social assistance is a lifesaver, but unfortunately it is not enough,” shares Crystal, a client of the Salvation Army food bank in Penticton, B.C. She moved to the Okanagan town several years ago with her young son after escaping an abusive relationship. Shortly after they arrived, however, her son was diagnosed with several medical conditions—autism, ADHD and global developmental delay—and Crystal was unable to work, meaning they had to go on social assistance.

    “After paying rent I have a couple hundred dollars left so we rely on places like The Salvation Army to help us eat, and they supplied us with furniture to get started,” Crystal states. “We appreciate all the help we have received from the Army here in Penticton.”

    Crystal is one of more than 200 people who have publicly shared their Salvation Army story in the pages of the Penticton Herald as part of the Army’s annual Be An Angel campaign. Launched in 2012, Be An Angel is a partnership between the Army, the Herald and Valley First Credit Union to raise funds for the Army during the Christmas season.

    Every weekday during the month of December, the story of a person who has been helped by the Penticton Salvation Army appears on the front page of the newspaper, along with a call for donations. Readers who are moved to donate to the campaign are then recognized, by name, in the newspaper, further encouraging support as the campaign moves toward its goal. The names are published again in the Herald in January as a thank you to the community.

    “Every dollar donated to this campaign stays within our readership area,” says Ed Kennedy, publisher of the Penticton Herald. “There is no administrative fee so 100 per cent of the money goes to families in need.”

    The stories that appear in the Herald  are gathered and submitted by Barb Stewart, program co-ordinator for The Salvation Army.

    “When I meet with clients during our Christmas hamper program, if I feel it is appropriate and not an intrusion, I will ask them if they would consider sharing their story as part of the Be An Angel campaign,” says Stewart.

    “These stories educate and enlighten Herald readers about the varied real-life circumstances that lead someone to need to access the food bank, or spend a week in Compass House, our men’s and women’s shelter,” she says.

    Educating the public is one reason why Kayley, a single mother whose son has autism, decided to share her story as part of the Be An Angel campaign.

    “I want people to know that there are people like myself who need to access a food bank who are hardworking, who have degrees and once had successful lives, and now find themselves in difficult situations and have such a hard time asking for help,” she says. “Raising a child with special needs is tough and I only intend to use the food bank as a stepping stone.”

    Since the campaign began in 2012, Be An Angel has raised almost $207,000, including $43,314 in 2017. As many as 500 individuals and businesses donate to Be An Angel each year.

    “Cash is the best non-perishable donation the food bank can receive,” says Rene van der Meijden, community ministry director, noting that the goal for this year’s campaign is $50,000. “With the help of Be An Angel, we can continue to assist well over 400 needy households with food every week and offer a variety of other services.”

    Along with supporting the food bank, the funds donated to Be An Angel have made it possible for the Penticton Army to assist fire victims, host forest fire evacuees, send children to summer camp and assist homeless people by giving them a safe place to sleep and healthy meals.

    Van der Meijden is quick to express gratitude to the Penticton community for making these activities possible. “The real thanks goes to the people who support this campaign every year. We couldn’t do it without them.”

    With notes from Barb Stewart.

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