For Capt. Dave Macpherson of the New Westminster Salvation Army Citadel, Christmas came late on the afternoon of Dec. 28.
Macpherson and staff were doing the final tallies for their Christmas kettle campaign in New Westminster and the TriCities, and the news could not have been better.
"It looks like we'll have about $336,000 in cash and about another $10,000 in cheques," said Macpherson, "so that means we'll be just a bit ahead of what we did last year.
"I'm very happy. Our coin counter is working overtime."
Macpherson had told The Record in December that donations were trending down in the final weeks before Christmas.
"We got off to a good start, and we were up, but in the last couple of weeks, our numbers have trended downward," said Macpherson. "If we keep with this trend, we'll be down overall, but I'm hoping people really reach into the hearts and help us out."
And reach into their pocketbooks people did in the waning days before Christmas.
"Friday (Dec. 23) was crazy, especially Friday night," said Macpherson. "A lot of people came to give us donations that night, and it's really a sign to us that people connect with the Salvation Army and our kettle campaign."
Macpherson said he was taught by his father never to pass a kettle without giving, and people seem to have followed that example.
"My dad drilled that into me, and I had people tell me the same thing," he said. "We had a great final couple of days."
The kettles, which can be found throughout the city, often at major shopping areas, are a major fundraiser for the Salvation Army. Many of the people who ring the bells are volunteers.
The Salvation Army regularly receives high marks from the American Institute of Philanthropy in its annual charity rating guide in terms of proceeds actually helping people in need rather than going towards overhead and executives' salaries.
In New Westminster, some of the charitable initiatives the organization is involved in include a special Christmas Bureau toy store that helps low-income families put toys under the tree; a Christmas dinner and an extreme weather shelter for when it gets too cold for people to sleep on the streets.
A wrap-up dinner for the approximately 200 volunteers who worked on the kettle campaign was held in early January.
Even though the kettle campaign has ended for this year, the Salvation Army is always looking for volunteers. In New Westminster, call 604-521-8223 or stop by 325 Sixth St.
On the Internet, visit www.salvation army.ca for more information on how to give or receive help.