Ken Smith has been thinking about paying back the Salvation Army for a long time.
On Tuesday, 88-year-old Smith put on his service medals and headed out to the Walnut Grove Save-On-Foods to man one of the charity’s iconic Christmas kettles.
“The Salvation Army was always there for us when we needed it,” Smith said, speaking of his Second World War service.
They were there behind the lines, providing a place to get something warm to eat or somewhere to catch some rest, always free.
Then, when the war moved into Europe, they stayed with the troops.
“As the troops moved up, they moved their canteens up,” said Smith.
Smith, born in Great Britain, signed on for service with the Royal Air Force. He was sent off to Canada as part of the training program based in the Commonwealth countries, then headed back to the Continent.
Smith flew Halifax bombers, mostly towing gliders full of troops or supplies. He dropped supplies to the underground over occupied Europe, and later took part in the first Allied Rhine crossing in 1945, towing gliders full of troops to capture the east side of the river.
After leaving the RAF, Smith headed back to Canada, having liked what he’d seen of it during training. He never left.
Now Smith said he’s making good on an idea to help the Salvation Army, one that’s been in the back of his mid for more than 60 years.
“It’s one of those things I always meant to do,” said Smith.
Smith has no problems taking up a new task as a senior. He celebrated his 80th birthday by going skydiving.
The money collected in Salvation Army kettles during the annual holiday campaign in Langley stays in the community.
The Army’s Gateway of Hope shelter will use the collected money to run extra programs, from meals to job training.
The Gateway operates as a homeless shelter, a community kitchen, and a long-term living place for people getting off the streets and putting their lives together.
To volunteer for a shift minding one of the kettles, call 604-514-7375 and speak to kettle campaign coordinator Shirley Stewart. Shifts are two to three hours long. Kettles can be found in front of many Langley stores and inside the Willowbrook Shopping Centre.