Toots Tucker is a dedicated volunteer with the Salvation Army Gateway of Hope’s kettle campaign.

Langley’s Toots selfless kettle campaign volunteer

Eighty-two-year-old Toots Tucker is there when called upon by the local Salvation Army.

Ask Troy Gaglardi and he’ll tell you: the world needs more Toots Tuckers.

Toots, and volunteers like her, are loyal volunteers with the Salvation Army’s Christmas Kettle Campaign.

Their dedication puts a smile on the face of Gaglardi, the Salvation Army Gateway of Hope’s director of community services.

“Toots does a lot of shifts,” Gaglardi said. “Not only does she go on the kettle shifts about four or five times, she helps us with our events.”

Toots chimed in, “I’ve been in the [Gateway of Hope] kitchen and I’ve poured coffee… whatever needs doing.”

For the local kettle campaign to be successful, at least 300 additional volunteers are needed to fill in two-hour time slots from now until Dec. 24, Gaglardi says.

There are 20-plus locations across the Langleys as well as in Aldergrove that require volunteers who will stand by the red kettles, greet passers-by, and thank them for their donations.

Toots, 82, does what she can, and would love to see others lend their time to the cause.

She started manning Salvation Army kettles roughly eight years ago, not long after her husband Lloyd passed away.

Her motivation is simple.

“I just love people,” Toots said. “Langley is my home and Langley is my family. You help family, right?”

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Gaglardi described Toots as a “model volunteer,” noting that the Gateway of Hope “would not run” without those who are willing to help out for free.

For every staff member at Gateway, there are three volunteers.

“Brenda [Vanderhorst], our volunteer coordinator, is in touch with her [Toots] a lot and is asking her to help out in all kinds of areas,” Gaglardi said. “Obviously she’s not available at every little turn but she makes sure that she’s here.”

“And I get wonderful hugs,” Toots said, before adding, “There is a real need.”

Potential kettle volunteers need to fill out an application form with their name, address, contact number, dates of availability, and the names of two references who may be contacted.

Application forms are available online and then clicking on the “sign up to be a kettle volunteer” tab, or can be sent via return email at kettles@gatewayofhope.ca.

Gaglardi said two hours is the standard shift: “It’s a length that people can do, it’s not too much, and they don’t get overtired.”

Every cent that drops into Langley kettle slots are allocated to Gateway of Hope programs such as cooking classes, as well as food, and items such as blankets, shoes, and socks.

“That means the food we get for the feeding program, if we have people in any of the training classes, it all funds those things,” Gaglardi said.

Last year’s campaign generated $180,000 in donations and Gaglardi said the bar has been raised.

“We’d like to see $225,000 this year,” he said. “We want to get those programs solid. We’re a little bit stressed right now.”

Gaglardi believes many in the community don’t realize just how much is going on at the Gateway of Hope. While helping the homeless is a key component, there is much more to the facility, he stressed.

“We have our regular feeding program, our tax program where we help people get their taxes in order, and we help Meals On Wheels,” Gaglardi said. “We have a demographic that’s quite wide. We have those are actually homeless, who are stuck outside, all the way to those who are finding it really tough to make ends meet.”

Toots said the Salvation Army symbol has true meaning.

“The donors at the kettle, they say ‘Oh, Salvation Army. They helped my family, they’ve never turned anyone down, I’ll help them first,’” Toots said. “That’s such a compliment.”

New this year are iPads which will be used for people who wish to donate to the campaign using their credit cards. They will available at such locations as the Willowbrook Shopping Centre, Wal-Mart, and Otter Co-Op, and local liquor stores.

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