By Laura Michell
Each May, volunteers from the Salvation Army hit the streets of Melbourne with donation tins to raise money for the annual Red Shield Appeal. But the coronavirus crisis has forced this year’s doorknock online.
The annual appeal is the Salvation Army’s main fundraiser, with donations going towards the organisation’s social and community services.
Craigieburn Salvation Army captain Pete Brookshaw says the Salvos made the decision to hold a digital fundraiser this year because the COVID-19 pandemic meant volunteers would be unable to door knock or collect donations at shopping centres and key intersections.
He is urging anyone who is able to make a donation to do so online.
“The Salvation Army always lends a hand to the most vulnerable in our community, so even though these are difficult times, our aim is to offer hope and support to people in need,“ he says.
“Right now, we are working with our local community, as we have always done, to ensure that we leave no one in need.“
The Salvation Army runs a number of initiatives to support the Craigieburn community, including a breakfast program at four schools, community lunches, a food van, and welfare services. Mr Brookshaw estimates that the Craigieburn Salvos served 20,000 cheese toasties to school children last year.
He says the demand for help has increased each week as more people begin to experience financial pressure as a result of the pandemic.
“Our welfare service is busier than ever.
“We have new people accessing our service who have not done so before. We welcome anyone who is in need to get us a call as this is a difficult time for people.”
Over in the west, the Wyndham Salvation Army is experiencing a similar surge in demand for help.
Captains Phill and Catherine Abram and their team of volunteers have been providing emergency relief, food, and assistance in paying bills to anyone who reaches out for help.
The Wyndham Salvos are also providing takeaway lunches every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday instead of their traditional community meals.
“It’s all hands on deck for us. We’re an essential service,” Mrs Abram says.
“We have been doing online [food] vouchers for people who access our support and don’t have transport.
“We are seeing people who have never had to access services before, they have never been on welfare before – it is an unknown for them.”
Mrs Abrams says the Red Shield Appeal is more important this year than ever before.
“More than ever, we need people’s continued generosity,“ she says.
“We are struggling as a lot of our income source is from our op shop, which is not open.
“Even if everybody gave $2, what a difference that would make.
“We are really calling for every community group to get on board, as well as individuals.“
According to Salvation Army Lieutenant Star Conliffe, the Red Shield Appeal allows the Salvos to target their support programs to meet the needs of their local community.
Ms Conliffe says the Hobsons Bay Salvos used money raised last year to construct a small food trailer to help out with their food relief program.
While construction of the trailer was put on hold as a result of COVID-19, the Salvos are hopeful it will be up and running soon.
Ms Conliffe says social distancing has forced the Hobsons Bay Salvation Amry to rethink how it offers support to the community.
She says all support services have changed to no contact, while a weekly soup van service has morphed into a meal delivery service that provides food to about 50 people each week.
“By being flexible, we have been able to help more people.“
To donate to the Red Shield Appeal, visit, digitaldoorknock.salvationarmy.org.au/ and search for your local Salvos.