Full steam ahead for the annual Kettle Drive
As I write this, I’ve just finished a three-day stretch of doing two-hour shifts for the Salvation Army’s annual Kettle Drive.
It’s my second year helping the local Sally Ann (my parents always called it that) during it’s key fundraiser for the less fortunate in the city. The six-week drive started in mid-November and runs until just before Christmas.
Since I have a flexible work situation, I can offer a fair amount of time staffing the kettles. Which are actually locked red plastic buckets.
And I truly do enjoy it. The Salvation Army does some good work for the community. From its soup kitchen, to emergency shelter, to Christmas hampers, it helps those people who are on hard times.
Kettles are located mostly along the Old Airport Road commercial strip, with one location downtown. They are at the Co-op, Walmart, Canadian Tire, the Liquor Shop and downtown Liquor Store.
My favorite locations are Canadian Tire (I like the kettle location) and the Liquor Shop (best for people watching).
The two-hour shifts can be pretty long if the activity is slow. You can’t be seen on your phone and I find it’s best to be standing up to greet people passing by. Jingling a ring of small bells is a great attention getter, as is wearing a funky Christmas sweater or a Santa Hat.
I will hold off wearing my Santa Hat until closer to Christmas. I’m not a big Christmas guy. But I’m not entirely Bah Humbug either.
I lost my zeal for the holidays over the years of living alone, far away from family. I would try and remember to send a card and make a phone call, but even those gestures felt rather empty.
But I digress.
Standing in one spot for 120 minutes in the Liquor Shop is a fantastic opportunity to study people. I can also do a bit of market research, especially into the popularity of cannabis.
And after being legal for more than a year now, I can say that cannabis sales look pretty strong. I’d say even one in ten patrons to the Liquor Shop picked up some pot. I’s kind of silly having the stuff in plain packaging and absolutely no marketing materials around. Customers often rely on the knowledge of the cashiers about which strain has what type of effect.
Why can’t pot legally have the same marketing ability as booze? People should be able to educate themselves into what they are buying.
I don’t use cannabis, but if I did I would have to use a hunt and peck — or try and toke — method of determining which strain has the best mix of the active ingredients for me. It’s one thing to list the levels of THC and CBD, and another to get a sense of what the brand names really mean — Aurora Blue Dream, Tweed Bakerstreet, DNA Chocolate Fondue — like c’mon, the packaging should have more info than that.
But here’s the federal government’s explanation for the lack of information labelling:
“These measures aim to reduce the risks of accidental consumption and overconsumption as well as reduce the appeal of cannabis products to young persons while providing consumers with the information they need to make informed decisions before using cannabis.”
But it doesn’t allow consumers to make informed decsions. How bloody dumb. But then again, it’s the government.
Some other Notes From the Kettle in the uptown Liquor Shop:
- There are not many senior citizens in the city. Like people over 70. Which coincides with what I’ve learned about older folks choosing to retire in some warmer and more affordable climates. Even if that means Alberta.
- I’d say the average age of folks passing me by was 35-45. With a decent number of folks in their 50s.
- People seem to be willing to invest a lot of money into booze. Some leave with hundreds of dollars in hootch.
- Many people add a few positive comments about the Sally Ann as they drop in a few coins or bills. “You do good work,” I hear often. A couple of people shared how much the organization helped them when they were in need.
- Each day I would see a couple of small-time bootleggers. They are the folks buying a case of Smirnoff mickeys or two or three flats of canned Lucky Lager. From what I’ve seen in court, some folks often load up on the easily re-sold liquor to peddle illegally to people when liquor stores are closed or when people are too drunk to get to a store.
- If you show up drunk at the liquor store, you won’t get served. The staff is really strict about this. One guy was refused service and when he walked by me, I could smell the alcohol on him.
- I saw a woman who was 4-foot-6 and a man who was 6-foot-7. I could see people’s heights when they walked past the anti-theft measurement tool on the door.
- Speaking of anti-theft, that measurement scale also has a camera in it. The store’s management has a large wall of shame by the door, beside where the Sally Ann’s kettle is located, with photos of alleged shoplifters posted for all to see.
- Some people stop to check out the collage of suspected crooks, looking for people they know. Some have even written down names of the people in the photos. Interesting.
- One Indigenous man stopped and said out loud, “Oh man, they are all native. That’s not good.”
- He then pointed to a photo and said, “That’s me!” He turned to me and laughed, he was pointing to a picture of a woman. Funny guy.
At the start of last weekend, the Salvation Army was ahead in funds from the same time in 2018.
“To date, with your help, we have brought in 36.6 per cent of our $42,000 total. We are up over $4,000 from this point last year,” stated Jason Brinson, executive director of the Alberta and Northern Territories Division of the Salvation Army.
“The Moneris debit machines have contributed over $2,000 of the total income representing 13.2 per cent of the income so far.”
Yes, for the second year, there are debit machines at the kettle stations. And they actually work very well — and quickly.
“We are forever thankful for your assistance in helping us to achieve such great results,” continued Brinson in his weekly email to volunteers.
“We are still looking for more volunteers to ease the load — if you know of someone who might be willing to help, please let me know.
“If your workplace would like to take a block of shifts, that is helpful as well.”
My Rotary Club is one example of a group that took a block of shifts, tackling the first week of the drive.
A lot of churches volunteer, as do a number of individuals, such as myself.
UPDATE: On Sunday night, Brinson sent out his weekly email to campaign volunteers. In part, it read: “We are half-way through our Kettle Campaign and I wanted to give you a report of where things are at.
“We have brought in 52.2 per cent of our $42,000 total so far. A couple of other data points, we are ahead of last year at this time by over $5,000 and the Moneris machine is 12.3 per cent of our income at the Kettle.
“Over the three weeks there were 264 hours to cover — with your help, we covered 247 or 93.5 per cent of them. Again, I cannot thank you enough.”
UPDATE: On Dec. 23, Brinson sent out this email to volunteers:
“Good afternoon everyone,
“I want to take this opportunity to thank you for your assistance with the Kettle Campaign this year.
“Your efforts led to the following outcome:
“Grand total = $43,319.73 which is 103.1% of our goal!
“Moneris accounted for $4750.01 of the grand total which represented 11% of the income.
“The new Kettle this year at Coop did very well coming in 2nd place with over $9600 total!
“Again, thank you so very much for your dedication and help this year. On behalf of those who will receive services and/or goods from us this year, I say thank you so very much. As you know these funds remain local allowing us to provide client assistance throughout the year.
“Finally, want to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New year.”
Executive Director & Associate Corps (Church) Officer
Alberta and Northern Territories Division