John Garenkooper

Volunteer draws on classic Dickens tale

NANAIMO – Help needed to fill kettle ringing positions for the Salvation Army.

Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol has long been associated with the holiday season, something John Garenkooper takes full advantage of as he volunteers for the Christmas Kettle campaign.

Garenkooper has been associated with the Nanaimo Salvation Army’s Christmas fundraiser for 10 years, but rather than merely standing and ringing a bell, hoping to elicit loonies or dollar bills for his kettle, he dresses up in full Dickensian getup, adding to the experience.

Garenkooper was in musical theatre, collecting costumes along the way, and drew inspiration from that. The theme of Dickens’ classic is giving to the less fortunate after all, he said.

“I thought I would dress up in that era costume at the Salvation Army kettle,” Garenkooper said. “It would make people think and stop. So I started doing that and from that time on, I’ve worked very closely with Salvation Army management … I try to catch the busiest of times and busiest of stores as well.”

Garenkooper not only looks the part, he also goes into character, like a man in the time of Ebenezer Scrooge. Some appreciate the effort he puts in and at times it has led to $5, $10 or even $20 donations. Sometimes he even pretends to be a mannequin, only to surprise some unwitting child who happens to be taking a closer look.

“It’s very satisfying. It’s almost like celebrating the event and when I’m finished, it takes me a little while to unwind because I really catch it. I’m really into the character and people communicate that way,” said Garenkooper.

While people like Garenkooper are donating their time to the campaign, there is also a massive shortage of volunteers, according to Dawne Anderson, Nanaimo Salvation Army fundraising and promotions coordinator. The campaign goes until Christmas Eve.

“The shifts are only two-and-a-half to three hours long,” Anderson said. “They are Monday through Saturday, in 27 locations from Ladysmith to North Nanaimo, inside and outside locations. All the money we raise in Nanaimo stays in Nanaimo.”

For more information, please call the Nanaimo Salvation Army at 250-740-1004, Anderson at 250-716-6595 or visit

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