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It's better to give

Salvation Army connects people with people

Jennifer McPhee
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Dec 19/01) - Karen Hoeft's office at the Salvation Army reflects her attitude about helping others.

Complete with a flowered sofa, corner table, lamps, framed photos, candles, and a bookshelf, it hardly resembles an office. It looks more like a living room.

NNSL Photo

Karen Hoeft is surrounded by hampers destined for families. At Christmas the Salvation Army also gives presents to patients at the hospital and inmates at the Yellowknife Correctional Centre. - Jennifer McPhee/NNSL photo

That's because the Salvation Army's director of community development believes in breaking out of an institutional mindset, especially when it comes to giving.

Around Christmas, for instance, it would be simplest to make Christmas hampers out of donations and send them out to families on a list.

"It's easy to be assembly line," says Hoeft.

Instead, the Salvation Army arranges an adopt-a-family program. This means organizations, businesses and families spend time shopping for food and gifts and then wrap everything themselves.

They even know a little bit about the family they are shopping for.

The Salvation Army distributes the hampers.

"We're just the middle man," says Hoeft.

This way, people don't give to an institution, they give to a family.

"We're seeing a lot of families taking this on as a project," says Hoeft. "Instead of spending so much on themselves, they share."

And while this takes more effort than mailing off a cheque, Hoeft says it's worth it.

"It changes the lives of the people who give and the people who receive," says Hoeft.

When children take part in shopping for other children, they realize the Salvation Army does not save people from homelessness, hunger or a barren Christmas -- people do.

"Children who see the plight of poverty in their early years and see they can be part of the solution will be forever changed," she says.

So far, Yellowknifers have adopted 200 families. At least 200 more city families will receive hampers packed by volunteers. And the army provides an additional 200 hampers to surrounding communities.

Hoeft says, so far, the need for hampers is slightly more than last year.

The Salvation Army kettles stationed around town help raise money for hampers, feed people all year and fill gaps as they arise throughout the year. Last year, the kettles raised about $17,000.

"People aren't just hungry at Christmas," says Hoeft.

The Salvation Army is also holding a Christmas Eve service and a turkey dinner on Christmas Day.