The Williams Lake Salvation Army is losing some staff members and 80 per cent of its volunteers due to a mandatory COVID-19 vaccine mandate that goes into effect Nov. 15.
“This very short timeline has not allowed our unvaccinated workers enough time to be considered fully vaccinated,” said Tamara Robinson, director of family services and community outreach. “As the largest provider of social services in Canada outside of the government, we have been federally mandated to have all staff and volunteers fully vaccinated.”
Robinson confirmed the drop-in centre will be closed from Nov. 15 until Nov. 20, as one of the staff members awaits a second dose of the vaccine.
“We are also losing our full-time volunteer in the drop-in centre,” she added.
In addition, the hours at the thrift store will be reduced, the dining hall will be closed and as of Sept. 13, the Saturday night feeding program to the homeless was discontinued, again due to lack of a co-ordinator and volunteers.
“I am currently working on food delivery methods which will allow us to feed the hungry from outside of our building,” Robinson said.
The food bank, she confirmed, will not be impacted.
In an effort to keep programs going, Robinson is pleading with the community to consider volunteering for any of the following positions.
Drop-in Centre, Monday to Friday mornings from 9 a.m. to 12: p.m., to serve coffee and snacks to clients or Monday, Wednesday, Thursday afternoons from 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. to serve coffee and snacks to clients. Volunteers must be comfortable with basic cash exchange.
Soup kitchen food preparation on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. to assist kitchen supervisor with daily meals and process food donations from grocery stores.
Servers are needed for breakfast Monday to Thursday mornings 8:45 a.m. - 10:30 a.m. to serve breakfast - continental style - to clients, wipe tables and wash dishes.
Servers for a buffet style lunch on Monday to Friday afternoons from 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Dish washers are needed from Monday to Friday 12 noon to 1:30 p.m., to wash all dishes and load a commercial washer.
Food bank workers are needed mornings 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. sorting daily grocery store donations and bagging bread and produce to be given away in the share shelf.
Share shelf workers, Tuesday and Thursday afternoons 1:30 p.m to 3 p.m. to hand out food donations.
A driver helper is needed from Monday to Friday 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. who would assist the Salvation Army driver with daily pick-ups, going to various retail locations in the morning, loading the truck, delivering to family services and weighing the donations. Volunteer drivers will need to provide a drivers abstract.
“If possible, we also hope to have a volunteer on call to assist us in case of a driver absence,” Robinson said.
The Christmas Kettle Campaign presently does not have a co-ordinator and volunteers will not be manning the kettles this year. Instead there will be the option to donate through the ‘Tip Tap’ method at different retailers around town.
“We are encouraging people to donate this way, or online at salvationarmy.ca. All donations made online stay in Williams Lake. Donations can also be dropped off at family services, or mailed.”
She asked anyone how normally volunteers at the kettles to consider volunteering at family services instead, noting proof of double vaccination is required.
Previously Robinson had about 63 volunteers a month putting in more than 700 hours.
“During the pandemic it fell to about 13 volunteers and about 80 hours. It had been slowly increasing, but now it is going to be right back down.”
She said some of the reasons she has heard that volunteers do not want to be vaccinated is due to fear, religious beliefs and government over-reach.
Christmas hamper registrations will take place Tuesday, Nov. 16 to 19, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. in the dining hall.
Robinson anticipates the Salvation Army will be preparing hampers for 300 to 400 families.
Anyone interested in volunteering can call Donna Renney, outreach worker, at 250-392-2423 Ext. 211 or email Robinson at Tamara.Robinson@salvationarmy.ca.