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COLUMN: Sally Ann Kettle Campaign is about more than Christmas cheer

Langley’s Gateway of Hope helping many in the community
Rachel Martin, Gateway of Hope Volunteer Coordinator, accepts a cheque for $1,000 from Maureen Bush, a member of Alpha Rho Master Sorority, an international women’s sorority. (Photo: Ursula Maxwell-Lewis)

ADVENTURES — with Ursula Maxwell-Lewis

It was quite simply astonishing to listen to Rachel Martin, Salvation Army Gateway of Hope Volunteer Coordinator, talk about the Red Kettle Campaign the other day.

The extent of work “Sally Ann’s” campaign supports goes an incredibly long way.

Rachel was on hand to accept a $1,000 donation from our Alpha Rho Master (Langley, B.C.) Beta Sigma Phi International Sorority chapter last week. (Beta Sigma Phi is an international women’s sorority. There are eight chapters in Langley.)

The Gateway of Hope, that distinctive oblong red building you may have noticed while cruising past 5787 Langley Bypass, welcomes individuals in need of support, counselling, housing, connections to other agencies, a sensitive listener, clean clothes, help completing documentation, support during career training and education—or just a hot shower and hearty meal. The price? No alcohol or drugs on the property. Respect for your fellow guests. That’s it. Homelessness, addiction, mental health and related social issues increase as the population increases, but approximately 50 Salvation Army staff, plus volunteers, appear undaunted and committed to providing a staggering array of free social services. Ranging from just a safe place to chat or play board games through to assistance with drafting resumes, job searches and other practical forms of rehabilitation, positive practical support is ongoing at The Gateway of Hope.

“Women tend to have more support than men due to women’s shelters,” Rachel explains, while remarking on the increase in senior women in need of groceries or other essentials.

Designed in three segments of guest assistance, Rachel first outlines the emergency shelter, which accommodates 32 guests (predominantly male) for a maximum three-month stay. Bunk beds, lockers, three meals a day, refreshments, showers are provided, including the opportunity to work with shelter staff to create a plan for a guest’s future with guidance through the process.

Next, the relief shelter is a converted meeting room at nighttime. Guests still have access to the services, but regulations require they be in by 10 p.m. at night and out at 9 a.m. In this shelter they are welcome to stay as long as they wish. Some have stayed over two and half years, but must observe the curfew. Rules are firmly enforced: no alcohol, no drugs, respect for other guests. Pets are welcome, too.

“People don’t even tell us their names, or show us ID,” says Rachel. “As long as they’re ‘clean’ and are not a danger to themselves or anyone else, they can come and stay with us. We’re ‘low barrier’ which means that even if you’re using drugs or drinking, you just can’t do it here, bring it on property or bring in paraphernalia.

“But, if you come to us and you’re high, we’ll take care of you and make sure you’re not overdosing and things like that,” she adds. “We don’t want that to be a barrier for people to come and stay with us. A lot of them are struggling with addiction or mental health issues.”

Lastly, in transitional housing on the third floor, guests have to be sober and clean. Applications and interviews are necessary. This is a two-year dormitory-style, full board program for those out of treatment who want to rebuild their lives and take the opportunity to work with an adviser and create goals.

“We’ve had people who have gone back to school, become employed,” Rachel explains. “One resident is about to graduate. He has found housing and will be moving in a couple of days. He did all of that while he was with us. Although the goals may vary, the goal is to enable you to live your best life, whatever that looks like for you. Ages range from 19 to retirement age.”

A shower program is available on Wednesday afternoons for non-residents. People used to a transient lifestyle, but who don’t want to abide by the rules of respect for others, etc., might just pick up a lunch bag.

“You’re not invisible because you’re struggling,” says Rachel. “We treat our guests with respect, dignity and love because we are a Christian organization.”

“Then there’s the meal centre,” she continues. “Feeding someone is a huge deal. Anyone can come and partake. We get so much support from local grocery stores and restaurants who partner with us. Nothing goes to waste. This is where we do about 400 meals per day, thanks to our wonderful volunteers and cooks.”

Their family services program aims to support families with kids.

“There’s a free summer camp, Camp Sunrise at Gibson’s on the Sunshine Coast, and we do a backpack program.”

Families or women in crisis are also supported by giving them Salvation Army Thrift Store vouchers for clothes or furniture. Throughout the year food hampers are also prepared for families and seniors in need.

“Life’s struggles can just beat people down,” concludes Rachel. “But we try really hard to be diverse and inclusive.”

The Salvation Army began in England, in 1865. William Booth, a minister, abandoned the conventional concept of a church and a pulpit and took his message of hope to the poor, the homeless, the hungry and the destitute on the streets of London. By 1867 The Salvation Army had developed into a ministry offering basic schooling, reading rooms, penny banks, soup kitchens, and relief aid to the destitute. It began its work in Canada in 1882.

Booth’s concept of ‘soup, soap, and salvation’ eventually developed into the comprehensive social service programs The Salvation Army operates today.

So, when you drop a few coins into the Salvation Army red kettles, or “tiptap” a donation, you can rest assured that in Langley The Gateway of Hope Salvation Army folks make your support go an incredibly long way. Merry Christmas and happy holidays!

Ursula Maxwell-Lewis is the former owner/managing editor of the Cloverdale Reporter. Contact her at




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