A not-for-profit organization provided an early Christmas meal to Red Deerians on Friday.
The Red Deer Salvation Army hosted its first Christmas lunch in three years – 2019 was the most recent time the organization hosted a holiday dinner.
“We had two years where we didn’t do it because of COVID,” explained Maj. Kent Hepditch, who has been with the Red Deer Salvation Army since 2020.
“Our understanding is there were several community organizations doing (Christmas dinners) as well, so we decided to put our funds towards other uses that we needed as well.”
It’s exciting to offer the dinner to Red Deerians again, Hepditch said, adding they were expecting 200-300 attendees at The Salvation Army, which is located in the city’s downtown.
“We’re hoping the cold won’t keep too many away,” the church’s minister said.
“People look forward to this and a lot really need it. People like to get together for these meals. It brings people from all parts of the community together.”
Olymel donated all of the ham offered during the lunch.
It’s been a challenging year financially for many nonprofit organizations and The Salvation Army is no different.
“We’ve seen an increase of 10-15 per cent for the Adopt-A-Family, Adopt-A-Senior program,” said Hepditch.
“Starting in January, we’re going to see an increase in the number of students we’re helping by giving them food to last for the weekend. We’re going to be up to about 250 students every weekend for basically 40 weekends while school is happening. That translates to about 60,000 meals.”
Much of the money The Salvation Army collects at Christmastime covers expenses the organization faces throughout the entire year, Hepditch said. The Christmas Kettle campaign has been going well so far, he added.
“The last report I got on Wednesday showed we just got over $200,000. Last year we did $217,000, so it looks like we’ll beat that. Our goal was $245,000 – I’m not sure if we’ll make that goal, but we’ll be pretty close,” he said.
“We’re very thankful for the community for supporting us. We know these are tough times for many, but the community comes through again and again.”
Another charitable organization, The Mustard Seed, was set to host its Christmas community meal on Friday evening of as well. Shelter guests will then get the chance to have a meal on Christmas Day as well.
“At The Mustard Seed, the Christmas season is by far the busiest time of the year,” said Byron Bradley, managing director of The Mustard Seed Central Alberta.
“With the weather getting colder and the cost of living on the rise we have a lot of vulnerable central Albertans who call on us for support. People experiencing homelessness and poverty can often feel isolated and lonely during the Christmas season, so we strive to bring hope, joy, peace and love to their lives in the various ways that we support them in their daily lives.”
Bradley said The Mustard Seed wouldn’t be able to do this without the support of the community.
“… And we need their support now more than ever so we appreciate every hour volunteered and every dollar that can help feed, clothe, put a roof over someone’s head or provide a caring person to support them and help them get back on their two feet,” said Bradley.