When Christmas Day finally arrives each year, the Salvation Army’s (SA)director of family services and community outreach said she cannot help but wonder if anyone got missed.
“There is that weight of the community and the fact we’d always like to do more,” Tamara Robinson said, as she tallied numbers for this year’s hamper requests in her office in the basement of the SA.
“Then we have to tell ourselves that we do not receive government funding and rely on donations and grants from Food Banks BC and Food Banks Canada.”
When asked what drives her to do her work, she said it is having a heart for the community.
“I deeply care for the people the Salvation Army serves. All people are worthy of love and worthy of grace and I consider it an absolute privilege.”
Born in Surrey, B.C., Robinson was raised in Williams Lake.
Her dad started Al’s Repairs, when the family moved to the lakecity in 1991. He was a heavy duty mechanic.
She attended 150 Mile House elementary and Williams Lake secondary, where she graduated with a dream to become an RCMP officer.
When life took her into a different direction, because a family member became ill, she stuck close to home and enrolled in Thompson Rivers University’s human services diploma program in Williams Lake.
“I was hired by Canadian Mental Health Association, while in school, but my heart was set on doing front-line social work. I talked to the Salvation Army’s Captain Ben Lippers at the time and arranged to do a practicum.”
Then in October 2015, she was hired as the family services co-ordinator and outreach worker, which transitioned into becoming the director of family services.
Looking back over the last four years, Robinson admits it is difficult to see many needs that cannot be filled, both individually and in the community.
“We don’t have some resources here such as affordable housing, treatment programs for families and couples, and second-stage housing,” she said. “People are on social assistance and waiting to go for treatment, but if they leave town they will lose their housing and if they return homeless after treatment, how can they better themselves?”
Shelters, she added, can sometimes be difficult for some people to stay in.
With the cost of food always going up, Robinson said one of the best things to happen has been the Save-on-Foods Loop Program, implemented earlier this year.
“It’s been a game changer for us to be able to have more fresh food to serve.”
The Loop Resource program has resulted in Save-on-Foods diverting unsellable food in a commitment to be a zero-waste food store.
When the program was rolled out in September, Jaime White, Loop Resource project director, said nobody wants to throw out food.
In many ways, Robinson doesn’t consider her position at the Salvation Army a job.
When she comes to work, every day there is someone telling her how grateful they are for the help they receive.
“Even when you feel you cannot help, you know you are giving someone a bit of light in the day.”
Needs ebb and flow, she added, noting things have finally slowed down since the 2017 wildfires, and needs can also depend on what is going on for people in their specific lives.
She’s noticed new faces coming in for help at the Salvation Army and said people that have moved to Williams Lake from the Lower Mainland and Kelowna have said it is because they couldn’t afford rent in those other cities.
“There’s also been a huge spike in mental health concerns and we try to work with people through those challenges,” she added.
Robinson is married to her high school sweetheart, Derek, who was working at Canada Safeway until it closed in October. Now he is working at Margetts Meats.
When she’s not working or volunteering for the Salvation Army she loves to hang out with their two dogs, work with her flowers, or get creative doing art projects or restoring old furniture.
Spending time with her parents and Derek’s parents is also important and on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day they will do just that.
“I know I will find myself looking around the room and hoping everyone in our families is there when we get together next year.”
Growing up she attended the Salvation Army Church, but started eventually going to the Williams Lake Alliance Church
Her mom, Sgt. Major Dina Kennedy, is with the Salvation Army Corps in Williams Lake.