From Struggles to Strength with The Salvation Army

by chrismcgregor
Categories: Divisional News

The journey towards a quiet life and a more stable future brought Svitlana and her family to Toronto in 2000. Following a terrible tragedy, she feared for the lives of her husband and daughter in their Ukrainian homeland.

Violence was making the country unsafe, and when a family friend shared that Canada is a welcoming, friendly place, the decision to move was made. However, life in their new home soon presented its own set of challenges.

In 2002, Svitlana’s husband was diagnosed with cancer, and the following year, Svitlana herself was found to have thyroid cancer. Not long after that, she also discovered she had celiac disease, requiring a strict gluten-free diet and presenting new hurdles to navigate.

“It got really difficult for me, and I didn’t have enough money to buy proper food,” Svitlana says. “I was not diagnosed yet, and I was trying different types of food. Everything was expensive and I needed to buy medication and supplements.”

Struggling with her health and the financial burdens, Svitlana sought help from The Salvation Army Yorkminster Citadel in 2004, and a new journey began.

Unique Food Bank Model

Yorkminster Citadel’s food bank service delivery evolved during the pandemic when close contact was not allowed, says community and family services manager Liz Colley. Staff came up with the innovative idea of a checklist of in-stock food bank items that lets recipients know exactly what is available.

Sitting with the family to fill out the checklist also gives Liz the chance to learn of any additional needs they may have. This could include support in their job search, assistance with immigration issues, filing tax returns, or help with clothing.

“Yorkminster assists between 50 and 65 families each week, and even though the number of families has increased by 150 per cent, I don’t want to lose that personal contact,” Liz says, “because that’s where I can build long-lasting relationships with families.”

Looking Ahead

At age 70, Svitlana’s outlook is optimistic, and she is thankful for the ongoing assistance, care and companionship from The Salvation Army Yorkminster Citadel. When her husband lost his battle with cancer and passed away in 2011, the food bank was a lifeline. Svitlana continues to receive monthly food assistance that not only reduces financial burdens but helps her manage celiac disease.

“The people are very nice, and Liz is a wonderful person who talks to everyone, not just me,” Svitlana says. “The Salvation Army is a big help and receiving groceries is very important. When you get older, life is always harder. The Salvation Army is a good source of help for me.”

Svitlana’s story is one of courage, perseverance, and the profound impact of providing care for those in need of support. Donations to help The Salvation Army make a difference in communities across Ontario can be made online at  or by calling 1-800-SAL ARMY.