VANCOUVER -- With the holidays ahead, it is the busiest time of the year for the Salvation Army and for fundraising efforts like the Christmas Kettle Campaign. 

The annual effort aims to raise more than $20 million each year. In 2020, it’s more important than ever, with more people expected to rely on food banks this year.

“The pandemic has put people out of work and out of homes, so in some communities in the province we are seeing a 200 to 300 per cent increase in need for our family service and shelters,” said Mike Leland, a spokesperson for the Salvation Army in B.C.

In Chilliwack, local food bank coordinator Don Armstrong said the organization is handing out food and clothing to up to 300 people a day.

“They are starting to rely on us more, because a lot of them do not have the money to go to the grocery stores,” Armstrong said. “We’re doing our best to help them as much as we can.”

He mentioned fundraising efforts have been difficult with most events cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Some local companies, like Richmond-based Nature’s Path, have stepped up donations to fill the void.

During its “Eat Well Do Good” campaign in October, the company donated 25,000 boxes of food to food banks in Canada and the U.S.

Meanwhile, community-led groups like North Van Cares are making sure no one is left behind.

In the early days of the pandemic, the group paired seniors with a volunteer to help with grocery pickup.

Now, among other supports, North Van Cares plans to deliver presents to as many as 130 seniors who are living alone through the holidays.

“If we literally bring a smile to the face of someone who was alone this Christmas, then we have succeeded in this mandate,” said founder Jacquie McCarnan.

The Salvation Army’s Leland said people can donate online at; and if they can’t offer money, people can donate their time.

“Just volunteering two hours is like giving $200 cash to us,” he said.