by Tim Fitzgerald, Black Press
Janet Kirichenko stands in front of the doors of the PriceSmart on South Fraser Way, one hand lightly ringing sleigh bells, the other ready with a candy cane.
As she hands out one of her last treats to another young smiling face, Kirichenko offers a hearty thank you as the familiar rattle of change temporarily replaces her chimes.
Kirichenko is just one of the many members of the Northview Community Church who are donating their time this holiday season to work the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle campaign. It’s the church’s third year taking on the PriceSmart location for the Salvation Army, Kirichenko said.
She says she’s more than happy to give up two hours from her day to help the Sally Ann, especially because of her experiences last year. Kirichenko wasn’t able to work the kettle last year because of her job in the retail sector. She said she didn’t like what she saw.
“As the season wore on, it was all about greed and profits. People just kept buying, and companies care too much about profits,” she said. “There was no sense of the spirit of the season. It makes your heart sick.”
Now she dispenses kind words and candy canes to customers making their way in to shop for groceries, regardless if they donate or not. For Kirichenko, the opportunity to reach out to the people of her community is too good to pass up.
“The Salvation Army does such tremendous work. We help raise the money but they know where all the nickels and dimes need to go. They’re the ones connected to the community and the people who need it most. So for me, it’s a chance to just talk to people and maybe brighten up their day.”
Greg Harris, director of local missions for the Northview Community Church, says their congregation chooses to help the Salvation Army because their faith and commitment to community are so closely aligned.
“They have such a steadying influence in the community,” said Harris. “The people at our church want to be involved in making this a better place to live and this is an easy way to help out and connect with people. For me seeing people respond with such generosity is great.”
The Salvation Army’s goal is to raise more than $500,000 in donations, whether it’s through its traditional storefront kettles, or through direct donations. In addition, the Salvation Army also has its new countertop kettles that businesses can leave at the front desk for customers to contribute.
Deb Lowell, public relations director at the Abbotsford Salvation Army, says while the goal of raising a half-million dollars is critical to the organization if it hopes to maintain its level of service in Abbotsford, she understands they have a difficult road ahead.
“The challenge is that there are many, many wonderful charities receiving donations throughout the city. We don’t want to wear out our donors, but at the same time, our demands have never been higher,” said Lowell.
She said the relief of having the Northview Community Church take over the PriceSmart means she has one less location to worry about, which is crucial come Christmas time. She estimates the Salvation Army needs about 4,000 hours of volunteer time for the 14 Red Kettle locations in Abbotsford and Mission.
“The congregation at Northview have been super supportive of what we do,” said Lowell. “Going forward, we would like to use them as a model for what other churches and business can do. The people of Abbotsford are incredibly generous.”
While cash is always king, Lowell said for those who can’t afford to donate or have given their money elsewhere, they can always contribute their time. She said there is a preconceived notion that if you are working a kettle, you have to ask people for money.
However, she said a simple hello or Merry Christmas is really all that’s expected.
The program is so well known and respected that most of the interaction with the public turns out to be friendly conversation.
Kirichenko reiterates that point.
“I’m such a talker. This gives me a venue for my big mouth,” she jokes.
Anyone wishing to become involved with the Abbotsford Salvation Army’s Red Kettle campaign can call 604-309-0660.