By Sean Meyer/London Community News/Twitter: Newswriter22
Hope was the central message being shared by ordinary citizens and Olympic medalists alike during the first annual Salvation Army Hope in the City breakfast.
Held on Friday (Nov. 23) at the Best Western Lamplighter Inn, more than 250 people turned out to hear inspiring messages of hope and success from those who received direct assistance through Salvation Army programs. In addition, speed skater Catriona Le May Doan share her own inspiring tale of going from last place at the 1994 Olympics to becoming a two-time gold medalist at the 1998 and 2002 games.
However, the key purpose of the breakfast was to show donors and potential donors alike the value that comes from supporting Salvation Army programs, not just during the Christmas Kettle Campaign — which also launched Friday — but year-round as well.
It was a message Murray Faulkner in particular is hoping spreads across the Forest City. Faulkner, London’s former police chief, is the 2012 Kettle Champion and during his speech spoke directly why generosity is so important.
“Giving is the rent we pay for a place on this Earth,” Faulkner said. “So when you see the motto, Hope in the city begins with you, don’t look to your neighbour, don’t look to the person sitting left or right of you, it starts with you. Over the next 30 days, we have to raise $450,000; we cannot fall short of that goal.”
While the kettle campaign continues over those next 30 days at 40 locations across the city, Maj. Pat Phinney, divisional secretary for public relations and development said the need to support the community continues year around. And that need, Phinney said, is what makes an event such as the inaugural Hope in the City so important.
“It is a very important time for us in the city. We have been seeing the need grow, in the past year four years we have calculated a 400 per cent increase in the number of people coming to the Salvation Army for assistance,” Phinney said. “We are hearing every day about more and more job cuts, it is becoming more and more difficult for people to make ends meet.”
And to face the challenges that come with that rising need, Phinney said it is important to tell — and show — both existing and potential donors how important their gifts can be. To assist the spreading of that message, participants were shown a pair of videos focused on how Salvation Army programs have helped change the lives of a pair of local residents.
Phinney said the message of the videos, indeed the entire breakfast, is that the community needs to pull together.
“What is the old saying? It takes a village to raise a child. Well it takes a community to look after their own,” Phinney said. “For them (the audience) to be here, hear the stories themselves, have the opportunity to learn more about what we are doing. And for us to have the opportunity to present ourselves and what our need is, that I think is vital.”
That was one of the messages Doan shared during her 30-minute speech and was highlighted by her following the breakfast.
“We are a large country, but we are small. We are in various communities and yet those communities are made up of people who make our country great,” Doan said. “I have worn the red and white for many, many years and I am so proud of our country. But it is because of communities that have come together.”
Doan said she was happy to be speaking in several communities recently, sharing her message and the importance of Salvation Army programs. Her passion highlighted by her first-hand witnessing of Salvation Army success stories.
“I believe in what they do. Every time I am at one of these events I hear more and more real life stories. I loved that, you see the people these programs effect,” said Doan, who added contributions can be of time and not just money. “We are all busy, it seems our lives are just consumed. But you do have an hour or two and what you get back from that, seeing what people do for others, you get back 10-fold.”
That sentiment is one Faulkner has long shared. In fact, the spirit of community is one reason he expects the kettle campaign will reach its goal this year, despite tough economic times and a target $25,000 higher than last year.
“These are not staff from the Salvation Army. This is the public,” Faulkner said. “So it is the public asking the public to support Salvation Army in our city. It is a win/win for everybody.”
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