Campaign rings in start of Christmas season

Saanich woman has witnessed both sides of the Salvation Army Christmas kettle campaign

Peggy Grahn has been ringing the kettle bells for the Salvation Army for two years. Grahn herself has received support from the Salvation Army and sees her volunteer work as an opportunity to give back.

Peggy Grahn has been ringing the kettle bells for the Salvation Army for two years. Grahn herself has received support from the Salvation Army and sees her volunteer work as an opportunity to give back.

Christmas is only weeks away on the calendar, but the mood on this Tuesday afternoon is far from festive.

Pedestrians, their passing gazes fixed on some future only they can see, scurry across the grey asphalt lot of a major Saanich shopping centre.

Some appear anxious and a sadness hangs in the cold air, pierced only by the metallic rattle of a Salvation Army kettle perched near the entrance of a grocery store.

Peggy Grahn would usually make it ring, but she is taking a break this afternoon to reflect upon the time when she first came to Victoria some 18 years ago.

Grahn arrived from Edmonton because of her health.

“I have some arthritis issues, and the weather is very helpful for that,’’ says Grahn with a quiet voice. “Where we came from, the winters are very brutal. They are very cold.“

But if the wet but mild climate of the West Coast is more soothing than the climes of the Prairies, Grahn and her then-12-year-old son did not settle in easily.

They were, as she recalls, struggling. Enter the Salvation Army, which provided the Grahns with additional support. “It was pretty hard and they helped me out with food, and a voucher for clothing. I thought that was really nice for them to do that.”

While Grahn says she and her son “weren’t in rags’’ during this time, the additional help made a difference.

Grahn says she received assistance from the Salvation Army for about two years, a period that included their first Christmas in Victoria.

“We got a nice Christmas hamper and nice toys for my son,’’ she says. “It was awesome. He was excited. He was really happy about it.”

Fast forward to the recent past.

Conscious of the conditions that confront many on the margins of society and inspired by a friend, Grahn decided to ring the bell for the Salvation Army two years ago.

“I thought the cause is worthy, because of the economy that we are living in now,“ she says.

“Food and rent is so expensive,” she says. “Every year, they try to help more and more people, especially single-parent families…that need presents for kids at Christmastime but can’t otherwise afford it, because they are just struggling to pay rent [and] bills for food.“

Grahn says standing in the cold is the hardest part of the job, which despite its  hardships, is deeply rewarding.

“Just putting in time is a good thing, to help other people,” she says.

For Grahn, the kettle represents the spirit of caring and giving.

“I think it’s the central focus of God’s love that we should reach out to people and care about people, especially around Christmas, when people might not have a lot,” she says.

While Christmas might be the most visible period for the Salvation Army, it tries to make a difference year-round, says Grahn.

“The money we make for Christmas is to last for the whole year,’’ she says. “It helps people throughout the whole year.”

But that is in the future, and for now, Grahn looks forward to Christmas.

She is standing at the kettle again, talking to an older women, not much her senior.

While Grahn’s daughter will not be able to come to Victoria, Grahn’s son will join her for Christmas.

“We will have a nice Christmas together,” she says with a smile.

Suddenly, it feels a little bit more like Christmas.

 

Just Posted

COVID-19 exposures have been reported at Colquitz Middle School and Tillicum Elementary School, both on June 14. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)
Two Saanich schools report COVID-19 exposures

Exposures reported at Colquitz Middle School and Tillicum Elementary School

Sooke RCMP seized cocaine, ketamine, MDMA, prescription pills, $6,000 cash, a machete and pepper spray during a bust June 15. (Courtesy of Sooke RCMP)
Sooke RCMP seize drugs, machete, pepper spray

Man arrested near Evergreen Mall following drug deal

An eastern cottontail rabbit on the UVic campus. (Evert Lindquist/News Staff)
Wild rabbits persist at the University of Victoria

Feral rabbits are still absent, but another non-native species has arrived on campus

Staff will be reviewing public feedback from second-stage designs for cycling infrastructure in James Bay, part of the City of Victoria’s 32-kilometre network. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria sends James Bay bike lanes choice to next phase

Design modifications based on community input to be delivered to council this summer

This conceptual rendering shows revisions to the proposed warehouse in Sidney on land under the authority of the Victoria Airport Authority. York Realty, which plans to build, then lease the building, said significant changes to the the massing and height of the building respond to community feedback. Additional feedback can be submitted until June 30. (Screencap/York Realty)
Sidney warehouse proposal lands Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce endorsement

Public has until June 30 to submit additional comments after significant modifications

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: When was the last time you visited the mainland?

The films are again lighting the screens at local theatres, the wine… Continue reading

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of June 15

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

The Co-op gas station at Whiskey Creek is burning after a camper van exploded while refueling just before 4 p.m. on Thursday, June 17, 2021. (FACEBOOK PHOTO)
Exploding camper van torches Highway 4 gas station between Qualicum Beach and Port Alberni

Highway traffic blocked after Whiskey Creek gas station erupts into flames

Helen Austin performing with Trent Freeman at the 2018 Vancouver Island MusicFest. Austin is one of the many performers listed for the 2021 event.
Vancouver Island MusicFest goes virtual for 2021

Black Press to stream 25 hours of programming July 9-11

FILE – A science class at L.A. Matheson Secondary in Surrey, B.C. on March 12, 2021. (Lauren Collins/Surrey Now Leader)
Teachers’ union wants more COVID transmission data as B.C. prepares for back-to-school

BCTF says that details will be important as province works on plan for September

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry outlines B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan, May 25, 2021, including larger gatherings and a possible easing of mandatory masks on July 1. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. records 120 new COVID-19 cases, second vaccines accelerating

Lower Pfizer deliveries for early July, Moderna shipments up

A Heffley Creek peacock caught not one - but two - lifts on a logging truck this month. (Photo submitted)
Heffley Creek-area peacock hops logging trucks in search of love

Peacock hitched two lifts in the past month

The Calgary skyline is seen on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
2 deaths from COVID-19 Delta variant in Alberta, 1 patient was fully immunized

Kerry Williamson with Alberta Health Services says the patients likely acquired the virus in the hospital

Most Read