At this time of year, being overwhelmed by an avalanche of toys couldn't make the Salvation Army's Jim ten Hove happier. Toys arrive at the Salvation Army year round, but it's after the annual Naden Band Christmas Concert that donations really pick up.
"Over 4,000 toys were donated in 2006, worth over $60,000," grins Jim.
And he's optimistic this year will bring in even more. The event is part of the Salvation Army's Christmas Appeal and has become a popular family tradition over the years, growing from the original one evening concert to two evening and one matinee performances. Donated toys will help fill the shelves at the Salvation Army's toy store, where they'll be chosen by those on the Christmas Bureau List for the children in their lives.
Volunteers put in a lot of time and energy to ensure the toys are gathered, displayed and eventually reach children at Christmastime. Jim, a Planned Giving Representative for the Salvation Army, is one of them, and has been involved with the organization since his Canadian Armed Forces days in Lars, Germany. He originally joined the armed forces as a soldier apprentice in 1964 and was in a training plan for engineers in Chile. Eventually, Jim re-mustered to Food Services as a cook, and became the Dietary Supervisor at the Hospital. He's cooked for royalty, generals, dignitaries and gatherings of 500 and more over the years, and says that because he has a cooking background, "I'm always in the kitchen!" But it doesn't seem to matter what size the kitchen is or who the food is for, Jim loves the work saying, "Food and fellowship - a great thing!"
In 1970, while on a United Nations tour of Cyprus, Jim met a local woman who became his wife. It was during this sojourn in Germany that Jim became interested in the services offered by the Salvation Army, which had a presence on the base in a voluntary support role. Jim's wife became involved with the Salvation Army, which ran a gift shop, held interdenominational church services and provided other social services. "My wife taught Sunday school, but I wasn't much into that type of thing," recalls Jim. "But one Sunday evening, I put on my jacket and went to vespers with the kids. Well, I went and never turned back."
The more he looked into the Salvation Army, the more he liked what he saw.
"I was a smoker and drinker, but I gave that up," says Jim. He started to take on voluntary roles, one of which was to set up the salad bar in their restaurant.
In 1985, the family moved from Europe to Victoria taking with them a letter from an officer in the German-based Salvation Army for delivery to the main downtown Citadel. Although Jim never knew what was in the letter of introduction, it must have been favourable because he and his family were quickly taken into the fold, and they never left. Jim has been a Door Sergeant for some 20 years, and he's still greeting people, welcoming them as they come in the door. Sunday school was still a part of their commitments and, eventually, he and his wife ran a Youth Leader group with pizza evenings, singing, games and other activities along with devotionals. There are monthly adult fellowship evenings with guest speakers and the committees.
When the Salvation Army moved from its Pandora location into a temporary one and then into the current quarters on Quadra at Hillside, Jim headed up the building committee. After much work, when the building officially opened, Jim was in the parking lot helping to park the cars. The annual Golf Tournament is another event in which Jim invests much of his time, and he's been on the board since day one. Held at Cowichan, with the help of many volunteers, including Jim, the tournament draws about 180 golfers. He notes that even when last year's event was heavily rained upon, 179 of the 180 golfers turned up and a record $53,000 was raised.
Jim insists he'd much rather help organize in the background than be in the spotlight and, as such, along with the many other volunteers, he helps form the backbone of the Salvation Army. "I don't do it for the recognition, that doesn't bother me," he says.
At this time of year, it's the Kettles and the Hampers, along with the Naden Band Concert and toys, that are Jim's priorities. He's run the Kettles fundraising campaign for three years and gets service clubs, cadets, various organizations, churches and volunteers involved, and even has companies sponsor kettles. He's sure they'll top last year's $201,000 worth of donations.
Perhaps one day Jim will realize his dream of a mission trip to Africa but, in the meantime, with the New Year coming fast on the heels of all his Christmas involvement with the Salvation Army, he looks towards volunteering his time to help people file their income tax returns.
Summing up what the many volunteers who help make life a little easier and much happier for many people Jim says, "I want to help people - service is what it's all about."