Interview with Major Rob Kerr

Today on What On What’s Good with Jovin Tardif, I am here with Major Rob Kerr.  Rob is the Divisional Secretary for Public Relations at The Salvation Army. The Salvation Army has been helping communities in Canada since 1882, giving hope and support to the most vulnerable in 400 communities across Canada.

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1. Can you first describe your role at the Salvation Army?

I am the Divisional Secretary for Public Relations for the Ontario Central East Division. In plain language that means I oversee The Salvation Army’s media relations, marketing, events, volunteers, government relations, and crisis communications for the region that extends from Toronto to the eastern boundary of Ontario.

2. So far, 1,186,000 people were assisted with food, clothing or practical assistance and 3.4 million free meals were served at shelters and in feeding programs. How can we continue to support vulnerable people?

At this extraordinary and unprecedented time in our country, what we really need is for people to support The Salvation Army with cash donations. They can donate through www.salvationarmy.ca or call 1-800-SAL-ARMY. I know these are tough times for many but if there are those who can donate, this is what would help us right now the most. When things get back to normal we will once again be looking for volunteers and donations of food, clothing, etc. but right now, cash donations are safest and most efficient for us.

3. Can you give us an example where the Salvation Army helped people in an emergency or when a natural disaster struck?

Right now we are helping as many Canadians as ever through this pandemic. The marginalized members of our communities are still accessing our food banks. Our food banks have not stopped operating at any point through all of this. Our shelters are also still operating and as you can imagine, we are serving a very vulnerable population in our shelters and their anxiety level is quite high right now. We are taking every precaution we can to ensure the well-being of both our staff and shelter residents. Beyond that, last year we served the people of Ottawa through the spring flood. We supported workers, sand bag volunteers, and home owners who watched the waters approach their homes with food and emotional and spiritual care. We were also present in Ottawa, after the tornado 2 years ago, once again serving those who survived that disaster.

4. Can we discuss Salvation Army camps?

Salvation Army camps are a wonderful experience for kids. We run 2 camps in Ontario that provide opportunities for at-risk youth and children from families who are struggling financially. They experience a week at camp where they do all sorts of outdoor activities, sing songs, make new friends. Our goal is to give them some time outside of their regular world and hopefully see new ways of looking at the world. Our Newport Adventure Camp is located just outside of Algonquin Park, this is a fantastic place for kids from the city to go and get away from everything. They eat well, play hard and learn very quickly that they are important and they are loved.

5. During the Holidays, Christmas in the Square and Hope in the City comes to mind. Can we discuss these events and the individuals that were helped with food hampers and toys?

As we all sit in isolation it is so odd now to think of those large gatherings where we have so many people come together like that. They are great events, the intent of these events is to share a little bit about what The Salvation Army does along with really launching our big Christmas campaigns, such as the Christmas Kettle Campaign, Toy Mountain, and all of the toy drives that take place across the city.

Aside from our regular food bank operations, at Christmas, we also supply toys and hampers for Christmas dinner to thousands of families across the city.

But we must also keep in mind that the money we raise in the Kettles at Christmas do not only help people at Christmas, it helps fund our community-based programs all year round. So the money that was dropped in a kettle in the mall at Christmas is still giving food to families in our communities right now. That’s how important our Christmas campaigns are. That is why we have those events, we need people to know just how much we rely on those funds.

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Tags: Rob Kerr, Salvation Army, Christmas in the Square, Hope in the City

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Jovin Tardif
Jovin Tardif is a freelance writer, storyteller, interviewer, reviewer and conversation starter.