Area families will be adequately assisted by toy and food drive, assures Salvation Army official
Sharron Harwood of the Salvation Army shows off some of the toys donated to the group’s annual toy and food drive. She estimates that 250 families will be in need of presents and food hampers this holiday season.
HUNTSVILLE - Santa Claus may live at the North Pole, but the spirit of Christmas may very well reside in north Muskoka.
Due to the generosity of residents in Huntsville, Port Sydney, Baysville, Dorset, Dwight and Utterson, around 250 families in this region will be able to enjoy a hearty Christmas, according to Sharron Harwood, the family service worker with the Huntsville Salvation Army.
“Last year, we helped about 225 families and this year it has gone up. I am saying that we will have another 25 families who will need food and toys. It seems like when there is more demand, the people in this region help out more. There is a feeling that ‘this is my neighbour we are talking about and let’s see if we can help them,’ This time of year brings out the best in people.”
Unfortunately, this time of the year is the busiest time for Harwood, as she co-ordinates the creation of food hampers and allotment of toys for those people who are in need of assistance during the holidays.
“We say that if a person pays taxes to the areas that we cover, we will help them,” she said.
Not only do the residents of the region donate items to the food/toy drive, they also give of their time.
Harwood said that the amount of volunteers who have lent a hand to organizing the hampers is such that they are ahead of schedule this year.
“We have high school students come over and public school kids come in to help. We will have the students coming in the morning and a different group in the afternoon. Different groups and organizations will come in and want to volunteer. So you are looking at any given time, five to 15 people helping out. We have a lot of repeat volunteers coming in, which is great because they know what’s going on from year to year.”
The Salvation Army has a long history of serving people in need. The organization was founded in London’s East End in 1865 by one-time Methodist minister William Booth and his wife Catherine.
William preached to the poor, and Catherine spoke to the wealthy, gaining financial support for their work. He described the organization’s approach: “The three ‘S’s best expressed the way in which the Army administered to the ‘down and outs:’ first, soup; second, soap; and finally salvation.
The Salvation Army in Huntsville began in 1886 under the direction of Captain Minnie Fisher. Services were held for a few years in an old-style barn building on Church Street.
The first barracks, as they called them back in the 1898 to early 1900s, were built and the next two corps buildings were built on the same spot of land on Mary Street East.
The second Corps building was opened in 1945, followed by the third citadel opening on a weekend in1984 captains David and Margaret Patterson.
As for the annual food drive for the church, Huntsville fire chief Ross Payne came to the Huntsville corps more than 25 years ago to have a chat with Captain Lorne Pritchett with the idea of helping the local church bring in food for the Christmas season. The first couple of years small gatherings of canned goods, cereal and other non-perishable items were collected to give to needy families in Huntsville through the Christmas hampers.
Twenty four years ago fire departments – under the guidance of present first chief Steve Hernen – in Port Sydney, Lake of Bays, Dwight and Dorset, joined the Huntsville firefighters to start the present-day food drive on the first Wednesday in December of each year.
The generosity of the toys and food donated to the annual Salvation Army drive allows the organization to use some of the money collected during the holiday season to provide essential services for needy families throughout the year, not just at Christmas, according to Harwood.
“We could help people out with an unexpected expense, or an electric bill and somebody has an abscess tooth and we can help out with the dental bill or medication,” she said.
For more information on the Salvation Army Family Services department, call 705-788-0624.