The Salvation Army’s annual Kettle Drive is now underway in Muskoka.

The Salvation Army says the need in some areas has “skyrocketed” almost five times in the past year. “It is a worrying and unprecedented jump not seen since the Second World War by the organization. And, as the coronavirus continues to impact lives, it is expected that the need for support will continue to grow in the coming months,” the not-for-profit says.

That has been felt locally. Leftenant with Salvation Army of South Muskoka Ian Robinson says they have had to cut back on what they’re doing with their Kettle Drive. “We had eleven people from last year’s opening weekend unable to do it this year,” he tells the MyMuskokaNow.com newsroom. Those 11 people covered 16 hours. “I certainly understand the hesitation with covid to be out in public,” he adds.

Major Neil Evenden with the Salvation Army in Huntsville says their Kettle Drive kicks off this Thursday and they are in good shape – for now – for volunteers. “We expect there to be some challenges as we go through the process with the new protocols,” he adds. Evenden says to call the Huntsville Salvation Army at 705-789-3398 to sign-up to volunteer.

On their website, the Salvation Army cites a 19-percent increase in the number of people who have visited them nationally. 

Robinson says the community has been very generous this year. This year, the team didn’t change their goals what they were last year: $46,000 for Bracebridge and $30,000 for Gravenhurst. Robinson says they had no trouble hitting the mark last year, and hope to continue the momentum this year. “We’re certainly aware of the fact that we might get less than that,” he says, but adds they’re “cautiously optimistic” the community will come through. 

Evenden says they set a goal of $60,000 “well before COVID hit,” but plan to stick with it. “We may not be able to reach that,” he says.

“We’re prepared for any scenario,” Robinson says. “What we hope comes out of it is the ability to continue to be a service in the community to support people in need.” 

“This year a lot of what we’ve heard from our higher-ups (with the Salvation Army) is the need to communicate safety to our volunteers and the public,” he explains. He says the need is still there, but it’s important to them to make sure everyone knows they will be safe whether they’re volunteering or donating.

“We’re happy that we’re able to go forward (with this year’s campaign),” Evenden says. 

Both of the Salvation Army branches in Muskoka say they are working closely with the Simcoe-Muskoka District Health Unit to make sure volunteers and the public are kept safe.

Volunteers will be out every Friday and Saturday collecting donations. Robinson says they will be at Canadian Tire, Gagnon’s Your Independent Grocer, Walmart, and LCBO in Bracebridge from 10 AM to 3 PM up until December 19th. Volunteers are needed for those shifts. Robinson says to call him at 705-641-2804 for more information on volunteering or call 705-641-2501 to talk to Major Val Redner about volunteering in Gravenhurst.

Volunteers in Huntsville will be out Thursday, Friday and Saturday starting this week at Walmart, Bullock’s Your Independent Grocer, and Metro. Evenden says volunteers will be out every day starting in the middle of December with the campaign wrapping up on Christmas Eve. 

“I don’t want anyone in the community to think that a small amount can’t go a long way,” Robinson says. He adds that multiple small donations throughout the day add up.