FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – Despite donations being down throughout the province, Jared Braun, with the Fort St. John Salvation Army, says their location has met their fundraising goal for the 2021 kettle campaign.

Thanks to the community’s support, the organization was able to close the $18,000 gap they were facing on December 22nd.

Braun says he plans on announcing the final numbers early next week.

“I’m hoping to do something fun with it just to really celebrate because it is exciting to make that mark and to know that support was there,” Braun said.

This was Braun’s first year as the executive director for the Salvation Army, one that he says has been very encouraging due to the community’s support.

“The ongoing, wraparound care that we see from the citizens and in Fort St. John, both individuals and families, organizations, businesses that just stand arm and arm with us [allow] us to be able to carry on the work we do,” Braun said.

Because of this support, Braun says that the organization has been able to keep up with the increase in demand for its services.

“Even when things get tough for more people, because of the support, we have the resources available to be able to help every person that walks through our doors,” Braun said.

The organization also has dynamic partnerships within the community that allows them to keep up with increased demand.

“Our partnerships with all the different grocery stores continues to be really strong and keeps growing. The support that we get from organizations and companies to help us be able to go and get the food from Site C, and then the financial contributions, the food drives, help keep our shelves stocked and gives us the capability to provide as much food as possible,” Braun stated.

Working with the Northern Environmental Action Team’s NOURISH program, the organization was able to help repurpose 22,306 lbs of food.

“That’s a big amount of food that would probably have otherwise gone into the landfill. But it doesn’t mean that we would necessarily have the resources on our own to be able to utilize it all,” Braun said.

Working with local grocery stores, Braun estimates that this year, the food bank was able to save approximately 185,000 lbs from heading into the landfill.

Braun says going into the new year he aims to work with restaurants in the area to collect food that would otherwise be thrown out and repurpose it for the food bank.

Progress continues to be made on the Northern Centre of Hope, with completion estimated to be in May-June 2022.

” [Electricians and plumbers] are hoping to have the formal aspects done by March, but it will still take a couple of months for us to get everything furnished and formalized and get our staff hired and trained. We’re still we’re looking at a May or June target date to start bringing in residents,” Braun stated.

Braun says staffing has been one of the organization’s main challenges this year.

“Trying to find people that really have a sense of the mission that we’re doing to serve people, but also have the skills and competencies, to carry on the work. It just seems that’s an ongoing challenge to find the right people to fill the different seats in our team,” Braun said.

Braun says he feels optimistic, looking into the new year, and he wants the organization to remain focused on what they do and doing it well.

“With the type and size of the organization, we see a lot of wonderful, amazing opportunities and maybe want to just step in and try to do it all. But [we need to] realize that that’s not necessarily our calling,” Braun remarked.

“I think as our organization grows, as our team grows, really remaining focused on the things that we do well and doing them with excellence is going to be a big focus,” Braun continued.