’Mrs. Christmas,’ aka Salvation Army kettle volunteer Gillian Shearwater, searches for a Welsh carol to play for Millie Cretney and her grandmother, visiting from North Wales, in front of Quality Foods on Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019. (SUSAN QUINN/Alberni Valley News)

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The Salvation Army’s annual Christmas kettle campaign is in high gear in Port Alberni and is still in need of volunteers to take kettle shifts.

The kettle campaign is one of the Salvation Army’s largest fundraisers of the year in Canada, and Port Alberni’s campaign is no different.

“We hope to raise $100,000 to support families in need in the Alberni Valley this Christmas season,” Salvation Army Captain Michael Ramsay said. Kettles are at Walmart, Buy-Low Foods, Tyler’s No Frills, Save-On-Foods, Quality Foods and the BC Liquor Store.

This Saturday, Dec. 21, Walmart Canada will match donations made by individuals to Christmas kettles located in front of its stores across Canada, up to a maximum of $100,000. Walmart Canada and its customers have donated more than $29 million to the Salvation Army through the kettle campaign since 2007, said Lt.-Col. John Murray, territorial secretary for communications.

Another feature of the campaign this year is “Angel trees” that are up at Alberni Chrysler, Alberni Toyota, Home Hardware and Beaver Creek Home Center. People can take a tag from the tree that contains a child’s wish for a gift this Christmas and fulfill that wish, then bring the gift back to be given to the child.

The Salvation Army has also filled hundreds Christmas food hampers for people this year, Ramsay said.

“All monies raised in the Alberni Valley stays in the Alberni Valley,” he added. In addition to the Christmas gift and food programs, the Salvation Army looks after the Community Food Bank, providing hampers and meals for people in crisis throughout the year. The building on Argyle Street at Fourth Avenue offers people a warm, safe place to drop in on a cold day, and offers support for families in challenging times as well as clothing for people who need warm clothing this time of year and any type of clothing year-round.

There are programs for men, women and children available through the Salvation Army as well as advocacy and personal support for people in need and summer camps for kids. Less known are the emergency disaster relief programs.

READ: Port Alberni’s Salvation Army kicks off Christmas season

Gillian Shearwater has been volunteering with the annual Christmas kettle campaign for 10 years now. She dresses in a festive red coat and hat, brings her tenor and alto recorders with her and plays carols to entertain shoppers at her kettle locations.

Even though she is often situated in front of a store, Shearwater said volunteering helps separate her from the commercial frenzy that Christmas can often be. She loves interacting with people, and encourages fellow musicians to bring their instruments for their kettle shifts.

“It’s incredible,” she said. “I see people I only see once a year doing kettles.”

One day recently a young girl approached her, wanting to say hello to “Mrs. Christmas.” Millie Cretney was visiting Port Alberni with family from North Wales. Shearwater searched through her music book and found a Welsh carol that she played just for Millie. Everyone left afterward with big smiles on their faces.

If you’re interested in taking a kettle shift, call or text coordinator Alvina at 250-918-8704.


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