Smaller charities thrive while Sally Ann sees slump during COVID-19 Christmas

by | Dec 18, 2020 | News

Canadians are donating to charities to bring some holiday cheer to those in need despite the financial distress of a global pandemic.

“Our goal was to help 650 families, which is about 2,500 people, and we surpassed that and ended up helping 681 families this year,” said April Rutka, co-founder of Holiday Helpers, a registered charity.

The business of brightening Christmas and the holiday season is a year-round job.

“We start our Christmas program for 2021 in February, and our campaign ends on Christmas Day. On Dec. 26, we start fundraising for the new year,” Rutka said.

Her organization’s mission, with the help of donors, is to provide customized relief packages to families with young children living in low-income households. Such packages include clothing, household goods or special requests. Along with the package, each family receives an artificial tree, decorations and a gift card for a warm meal.

“We do all the family shelters downtown,” Rutka said. “When a family leaves the shelter, and into their first apartment, they are usually referred by the shelter’s social worker.

“If they’re deemed low-income, we’ll provide their first Christmas for them and their children,” she said. “We get referrals from teachers, principals and immigrant services like Costi to help those in need.”

It's the season for giving and many Canadians are still donating to smaller charities despite COVID-19.

It's the season for giving and many Canadians are still donating to smaller charities despite COVID-19. Photo credit: Jennifer Kozak

The charitable sector employs 1.5 million Canadians making up 10 per cent of the Canadian workforce and represents eight per cent of Canada’s GDP, according to Canada Helps.

The coronavirus pandemic has forced many charities to lay off staff and cut-back on volunteers, but Canada’s Sector Monitor reports charities that solely depend on gifts and donations are seeing an increase in support this year.

Through its Christmas program, Mooreland Kids provides children in its program with three gifts, said David Borsook, the organization’s camp director.

“They get something to keep them warm, which is typically a hat and gloves. Something fun to do and something that they enjoy doing. For instance, if the child is into science, they’ll get a science kit,” Borsook said.

With rising food insecurity this year, Mooreland Kids also tried to boost food support.

“We created a program called Top of the Pantry,” Borsook said. “Normally we provide each family with a $25 gift card, but this year we will be adding a second gift card just for canned goods.”

Some charities have turned to virtual donations for programs and resources because of a lack of in-person events to raise money for holiday campaigns.

The Salvation Army’s Christmas Kettle campaign is one of the most recognizable annual charitable events in Canada. To boost this year’s fundraising efforts, the Salvation Army, in partnership with Rogers Communications, launched a touchless giving solution where donors can tap their smartphones or debit cards to give.

Dan Miller, a local Salvation Army kettle organizer, said the goal for Ontario is $12 million.

“We are only at 50 per cent of that right now,” he said. “The donations through Christmas time go to our community family services to provide toys for families in need.”

The charity is seeing an increase in families in this particular year as many have lost their jobs due to COVID-19, but Miller said the Salvation Army “will never turn anyone away who needs help.”

Despite the hardships many Canadians endured this year, the three charities hope to surpass their holiday goals in helping those in need.

“We’ve been so thankful for everyone who reached out to us to make sure families in need are supported during this time,” Borsook said.