Salvation Army sees needs soar
Salvation Army food banks have served 2,000 more people this year than they did in the first nine months of last year — and expect to serve more.
Major Sandra Stokes, the divisional commander and divisional director of women's ministries, said yesterday that the charity had given supplies to about 5,368 families since the start of the year, compared with the 3,300 families they served in 2019.
She added that this number was expected to grow in the winter.
Major Stokes said: “More and more people have actually lost jobs, with some businesses closing and others going through redundancies and changes.
“In light of that, if more people have been losing their jobs as recently as September and October, we're probably anticipating that the requests for help will certainly be more.”
Major Stokes added: “I have been overwhelmed by the generosity of our entire island community, with thousands of lives having been made a little easier because of the very generous support we have received.
“The Salvation Army's commitment to our mission and to the people of Bermuda remains steadfast — we are still here, still serving and still making a difference.”
Major Stokes said that the Salvation Army had served more than 7,000 individuals since the start of the year.
She added that about 1,000 families who were served in the past nine months were first-time registrants and included seniors, single-parent households and families with as many as three children.
The Salvation Army said on May 7 that its food banks had serviced 868 families since the start of the year, with 544 of these families being first-time registrants who signed up after March 23.
The charity had to extend operations at its Pembroke shelter to 24 hours in response to the crisis.
Major Stokes said yesterday that this level of demand was sustained throughout the summer.
She added that, although the Salvation Army had seen a decrease in the past couple of months, it still expected a rise in demand as winter approached.
Major Stokes said: “Typically, when it comes to Christmas, we see a lot of need anyway.
“Christmas tends to be economically draining on many families anyhow with regards to food, trying to spread the Christmas joy and making sure that folks have what they need.”
Major Stokes said that the Salvation Army would do their annual Christmas appeals to provide for the community.
She admitted that their holiday plan was still in the works, but said they would follow strict safety protocols to ensure that no one was put in harm's way.
Major Stokes said: “The finer details have actually not been worked out yet, but we do want to assure people that we'll be helping.”
She added: “We've actually received confirmation from a number of businesses on the island that will still allow us to have our Christmas bucket outside their business.
“Of course, we will continue to honour government guidelines with wearing a mask and with social-distancing.
“There will be no exchange of papers or flyers or anything like that.
“We will secure volunteers and make sure that they are in masks and keeping safe.
“The persons passing by just need to drop in their donation without any contact.”
Major Stokes said that their Christmas hamper campaign could look similar to the food drives they had during the summer, where volunteers followed strict distancing and sanitation measures.
She also thanked the public and corporate sponsors for their assistance during the year, adding that many groups and individuals offered donations in spite of the worldwide economic downturn.
Major Stokes said: “We didn't have a letter appeal in May, which would have been a standard practice for us, but folks still donated.
“I think it comes down to the good heart and souls of humanity — they may not receive a letter in the mail asking for a donation, but they know we're on the street, they know we provide shelter and they know they can come to the Salvation Army with a food hamper.”
She added: “We want to assure people at this part of our journey that we just deeply, truly appreciate what they have done for us during Covid.
“Moving forward, we will do the best we can with what we have and we'll be as safe as we can for the good of all.”