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Christmas KettleStephen Toynton has seen firsthand the tough decisions people have had to make as the cost of living goes through the roof.

The captain of the Salvation Army in Springhill said his organization has seen the volume of calls for help escalate significantly since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down most of the world’s economy in early 2020. Now that things are reopening and returning to normal, the number of people needing help has exploded.

“It’s the worst I’ve seen it in the seven years we’ve been here. Times are tough and everyone is feeling the pinch,” Toynton said as the Salvation Army launched its latest Christmas kettle campaign. “More and more people are turning to us for help and this year, more than ever, we need the help.”With inflation and the cost of groceries, gas and heating oil going up, Toynton said it’s making life difficult for so many. He’s fearful it’s going to get worse before it gets any better.

“We’re seeing more new faces at our food bank (in Springhill),” Toynton said. “That’s an indication there how tough times are. Families who’ve never gone to a food bank before are being forced to make that decision and others looking for other types of assistance are making the phone call as well.”

The Salvation Army’s Cumberland County 2022 Christmas Kettle Campaign was launched Monday, Nov. 14, at Springhill’s Foodland with Cumberland County Mayor Murray Scott and Cumberland South MLA and Natural Resources and Renewables Minister Tory Rushton on hand to show their support.

Toynton said the goal for this year’s campaign is $50,000 with kettles set up at Springhill Foodland as well as the Atlantic Superstore, Giant Tiger and Walmart in Amherst.

Volunteers are staffing the kettles and people are encouraged to donate what they can.

All the money raised stays in Cumberland County.

Mayor Scott said the Salvation Army has done a lot for Cumberland County and he’s hopeful people will return the favour by giving what they can when they pass by the kettles.

“Salvation Army has a long tradition in our community. I think back to the mine disasters in Springhill and how they were there helping people and providing food when needed,” Scott said. “Their work in the community has continued since then and I’m hopeful people will support this campaign.”

Scott said the money raised by the kettle campaign will help a lot of families at Christmas, but the assistance provided by the Salvation Army from the fundraiser is year-round.

“They do so much for our county, but they can’t do it alone,” the mayor said. “I’m encouraging the people of Cumberland County to give what they can to support this important campaign that really helps people who really need assistance.”

Toynton is confident the community will rise to the challenge because it always has.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, when a lot of people were off work due to health restrictions, the community responded by meeting the campaign goals in 2020 and 2021 – just like they have for years.

In 2021, the Salvation Army assisted more than 180,000 across the Maritimes.

The organization is reporting a 30 per cent increase in families with children requiring assistance across Canada. More than 30 per cent of those who need help this year are asking for the first time.

The Salvation Army hopes to raise $2.2 million in Maritimes this Christmas season.

Along with support for food banks, the campaign raises money for things like children’s breakfast programs, housing supports, substance-use recovery, emergency disaster relief and Christmas support.Anyone wishing to assist the campaign, can contact the Salvation Army at 902-597-3954.