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The Salvation Army Grace Mansion, located in Vancouver, is an 84-unit residential facility that provides supportive transitional housing for up to 24 months.Supplied

Everyone needs an army. This Christmas, join the army of givers and help make a difference in the lives of Canadians

Long before COVID-19 swept the country, Canadians were struggling under the weight of poverty, homelessness, and food insecurity in their communities. Today those issues have been exacerbated by a global pandemic. Throughout 2020, with the support of governments at all levels, donors, staff and volunteers, The Salvation Army stepped up its efforts and helped people to make ends meet with a message of care and hope.

Through its network of more than 235 community and family services offices, and its emergency shelter and drop-in programs, The Salvation Army mobilized swiftly and served more than 2.8 million meals and helped 1.5 million people with food, clothing, and practical assistance. At Christmas, 245,000 people were gifted with food hampers and toys.

Masud was inspired by The Salvation Army’s mission of hope and joined The Salvation Army Grace Mansion team in Vancouver four years ago.Supplied

A history of helping

This care for humankind is not new for the organization and its army of givers. Since 1882, The Salvation Army has been sharing the love of Jesus Christ, meeting human needs and serving as a transforming influence in Canada. It is Canada’s largest non-governmental direct provider of social services.

It’s this mission to help and offer hope that attracted Masud to work with the team at The Salvation Army Grace Mansion in Vancouver. With a background in addiction medicine, Masud joined the team four years ago.

“There is a belief here to preserve, protect and nurture,” Masud says. “The Salvation Army has this wonderful combination of faith and compassion that drives everything we do.”

Grace Mansion is an 84-unit residential facility that provides supportive transitional housing for up to 24 months. Goals for residents include housing and continued abstinence from drugs and alcohol. For one individual, it was much more than that.

Transforming lives

A former Grace Mansion resident, Jesse calls the time he lived there transformational. Sober for more than four years now and living in his own apartment, he describes how it offered him a safe space to heal and take a hard look at his life.

“I had a lot of issues. I was mentally, emotionally, and financially destitute. I am educated and come from a professional background but with alcoholism all that matters is getting that almighty drink,” Jesse says. “Being at Grace Mansion gave me a chance to take a careful look at myself and make some serious decisions about my life.”

Jesse grew up in Zimbabwe and moved to South Africa where he went to war at age 18. From there he moved to England and then Canada, which he now calls home. While teaching in Russia on a contract, he experienced congestive heart failure and returned to Vancouver.

“I lost everything,” he says. “I trusted the staff at Grace Mansion and relied on them for guidance and support. They helped me stay sober and relearn important skills like how to build a resume and apply for job. They offered me the choice to change my life in a place that afforded me some privacy and dignity when I was at my lowest.”

Inspiring an army of givers

Masud says there are many more people like Jesse in need.

We need more help. Even though we live in a wealthy country like Canada, there are so many people living in poverty. In Vancouver there is a major opioid crisis and people are dying from overdoses every day,” he says. “People across Canada are going without food, which puts their health in jeopardy. With COVID it seems to be getting worse.”

The Salvation Army reports that nearly 4.5 million Canadians couldn’t provide adequate food for themselves and their families before COVID-19. By June 2020, that number had grown by 39 per cent, affecting one in seven people. The number of people calling on The Salvation Army for assistance that same year quintupled for the first time since the Second World War.

With talks of economic recovery, many Canadians still need a helping hand. The Salvation Army is mounting its Christmas 2021 campaign called Everyone Needs an Army: Army of Givers. Underlying the campaign is the hope that more Canadians will see this Christmas as an opportunity to donate money, toys, clothes, or time – whether it’s serving a meal, standing beside one of more than 2,000 Christmas kettles, or stocking shelves at a local food bank.

Masud tells a story about an entire family who visited Grace Mansion recently with a cheque for $5,000 to help with job training and support for the residents.

“I believe that COVID-19 has made us more compassionate as a society,” he says. “What we need now, perhaps more than ever before, is to be a light for people and to spread the message of hope.”

For more information on how you can join the army of givers this holiday season and invest in the lives of marginalized people, either through donations or volunteering, visit salvationarmy.ca/armyofgivers and salvationarmy.ca/volunteer.


Advertising feature produced by Globe Content Studio and The Salvation Army. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.