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As we reopen, once more, our shops in England, SATCoL's Managing Director, Trevor Caffull, shares his gratitude for our colleagues in Scotland and Wrexham who have remained open in recent weeks, and also a message about the significance of The Salvation Army’s work during this time of Advent and as we look forward to Christmas.

We’ll keep the old flag flying!

By Trevor Caffull, Managing Director

There’s an old Salvation Army song which came to mind earlier this week when I was in contact with Arlene McKenna, Sales Manager of our East Scotland charity shops. Our email dialogue had been on a totally unrelated matter, but when signing off I suddenly realised that Arlene, following the lockdown in many parts of West Scotland last week (and with the ongoing lockdown of England), was ‘last person standing’ in that only she was now running a group of active shops. I thanked her for keeping the flag flying.

The Salvation Army song I referred to is called ‘We’ll keep the old flag flying’ and it talks about flying the Army flag around the world. ‘Flying the flag’ of course is a metaphor for keeping the work going, and that’s exactly what is happening this week in Wrexham (our only Welsh shop, somewhat in isolation) and in the eastern half of Scotland.

As each day’s sales are reported we will, very temporarily, have to get used to seeing sales at only about 15% of our normal value... but what an important 15% that is. The trading presence of the 29 shops in Wrexham and East Scotland remind people who live in those areas that the Salvation Army flag really is flying – we’ll still be processing about 13,500 transactions this week, have something like 70,000 customers in our shops and who knows how many walking past our front doors... all of them being reminded of the ongoing work of The Salvation Army.

The Salvation Army’s work somehow seems even more vital at Christmastime, as the winter bites and thousands of disadvantaged people remember the home they once had, the loved ones who used to love them, family members who they have lost touch with or a world where they had a much more significant value than that which a human trafficker placed on their head. These are some of the issues The Salvation Army will be dealing with as Christmas approaches – homelessness, loneliness, isolation and abuse. These are the unromantic, not-so-soft-and-cuddly images that The Salvation Army confront at Christmas.

This year it will be different, and more difficult. Inevitably some of the Christmas lunches that get put on around the country for those who would otherwise be on their own simply will not be allowed to happen, and so the organisation will have to find new and creative ways of serving... and they’ll do it too! As December dawns, so we pass into the time of Advent (actually, to be precise Advent started this year on 29 November), a time of preparation for all that Christmas means. For some it means getting the trees and decorations up, for others it has a more spiritual meaning, and for many it just acts as a time of reflection before the big Christmas rush. A good way to use Advent is to give real consideration to those we know, who, for whatever reason, will have a more difficult Christmas this year of all years.

Which brings me back full circle to keeping the flag flying... The Salvation Army will find ways of keeping its flag flying this Christmas, in all likelihood helping more people in need than ever before. And this week our shops in East Scotland (and Wrexham!)  kept our flag flying – a reminder that we haven’t gone far and we’ll soon be back to full strength. Thanks Arlene, thanks East Scotland (and of course, thanks Wrexham).

We’ll keep the old flag flying,
Flying round the world,
We’ll keep the old flag flying
In every land unfurled!

Trevor

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Find out more about The Salvation Army's Christmas Appeal and how you can help them support people facing hardship and loneliness this Christmas: https://www.salvationarmy.org.uk/ 

Visit one or our charity shops or donation centres this Christmas; by shopping with us you can enjoy unique gifts at amazing value, and help us support those in need. Find your nearest store: http://www.salvationarmytrading.org.uk/shops/finder