TORONTO -The city unit of the Salvation Army has had one of its busiest months in its history in November, according to unit officials.
The unit received some help from the Toronto Chamber of Commerce and the community after Light-Up Night Nov. 20 raised more than $1,800 for the unit's home heating assistance program. The money is being used wisely to help pay utility bills for some clients, said Doris Starr, co-director and treasurer, and Anna Lea Wirth, co-director and volunteer coordinator.
"We've (so far) helped 26 families in November," said Wirth, adding it's been one of the unit's busiest months ever. "Mostly, it's been (assistance) with utility bills. We did buy a used refrigerator for a client. We've (spent more in November) than we're budgeted for. Our (annual) budget is usually around $22,000."
"Our budget is usually $1,800 per month," said Starr. "We've already spent $2,600 (for client needs) in November."
The need seems to be increasing, according to both unit officers, and "We helped more people last year than the year before," said Wirth. "If November is any indication, this could be our busiest year. The people who come in are so grateful for the help."
"Usually the fall months are the hardest," added Starr. "In December there's more help available for people (through various agencies), so we don't get hit as hard."
The unit office, in the Riverview United Methodist Church, 105 N. River Ave., is open from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Starr and Wirth said those desiring assistance should come prepared with identification, proof of income, and a current utility bill showing residence and amount owed.
"There also is a small amount of paperwork to do, but we don't require an arm and a leg or a pint of blood," said Starr. "We aren't government-funded or government-controlled. The (Salvation Army) does have guidelines we have to follow. We are a Christian-based organization."
Both officers said the unit keeps its overhead as low as possible. Riverview Church donates the office space, while the unit uses volunteers for client assistance as well as bell ringers during kettle drive season, which currently is running from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. every Friday and Saturday at both Toronto Kwik King locations and Riesbeck's grocery store, said Starr.
"(Funds raised through the kettle drive) are a very large part of our annual budget," she said, adding city residents Ed Stacey and Carl Oprisch currently are assisting Don Redmond, kettle drive coordinator. "(Bell ringers) are all strictly volunteers. (Redmond) does a good job of organizing the kettle drive."
"We couldn't work without the volunteers," said Wirth. "They are very conscientious, reliable, trustworthy, and they are much appreciated."
Both said they also appreciated the community's support during Light-Up Night as well as the Toronto Community Thanksgiving service, organized by the Toronto Ministerial Association and held Nov. 18 at the Toronto First Presbyterian Church. Funds raised through the event were split between the Toronto Salvation Army and the His Hands Extended Toronto food pantry, said Wirth. Both also said local churches were very generous in assisting the agency. But the community's support has always been overwhelming.
"The people of Toronto always come through for us so we can help their neighbors," said Starr.
To reach the Toronto Unit of the Salvation Army, call (740) 537-4737.