Community creates a Christmas

A mound of toys from a recent Tigh-Na-Mara toy drive breakfast. The event — which        donates the toys to the SOS Christmas program — happens on Nov. 30 this year.  - Steven Heywood photo
A mound of toys from a recent Tigh-Na-Mara toy drive breakfast. The event — which donates the toys to the SOS Christmas program — happens on Nov. 30 this year.
— image credit: Steven Heywood photo

iginal board of directors and founder Edith Chamberlain began the Society of Organized Services’ Christmas Campaign.

What began in 1968 as a coming together of community groups, service organizations and volunteers, continues to this day in the annual effort to being a little Christmas to people in need.

“It takes a lot of people to participate,” said SOS executive director Renate Sutherland. “It’s a community program, and we just facilitate.”

She said they try to let people know they are the ones helping people have a good holiday — but that it is their donations that make it all possible.

“The SOS doesn’t buy toys — they are all donations,” she explained. “The original board of the SOS wanted other groups and individuals to contribute and centralize their efforts, and that led to the Christmas campaign.”

There were churches, schools, seniors and more — a real community effort.

It continues in the efforts of residents throughout District 69, Sutherland said, adding it’s a little like magic.

“Magically, the community has risen to the challenge of helping others during hard times. This community has always believed in Christmas.”

This year’s campaign — with a goal of $95,000 — officially starts Monday with registrations, but already, donations are starting to come in. Last year, the SOS reached its goal before their deadline — a first in their history. They use that money to pay for their service programs and to help people get through tough times.

The need at that time was great — and there’s every indication there are many people facing a bleak holiday again this year. Sutherland said already, people have been putting in requests for hampers from local food banks — and the numbers are on the rise.

On Monday, the SOS begins taking registrations for their Christmas program. It’s for people in need over the holidays, and offers them the chance to pick out gifts they would for their own families. The SOS also offers food vouchers from local grocery stores, allowing people dignity in choosing their own holiday feast.

Registration continues until Dec. 10, and the volunteers try to ensure everyone who does gets a wide variety of toys to choose from when they visit the toy shop.

Sutherland added there will be two registration nights this year for working families — Nov. 22 and 24. There will also be two distribution nights in December for the same reason.

Distribution of the toys and vouchers takes place Dec. 12 to 16.


From now until then, various local groups, businesses and individuals help make it all possible with fundraisers, toy drives and more. Sutherland said the silver Spurs Riding Club has their toy ride Nov. 20. Ten days later, Tigh-Na-Mara Resort holds their breakfast with Santa.

And starting next week, local businesses will be decorating Angel Trees — allowing people to pick an angel from a tree and then buying a gift for the child or a certain age group listed on the back. As always, there’s a challenge in getting enough gifts for kids age 10 and up.

There are more ways in which people help bring some holiday cheer to people in need through the SOS. Sutherland said they have more than 100 volunteers doing a variety of jobs — as well as many others who donate in their own way.

In the end, the focus is on the people they are trying to help. The SOS, through this program, tries to ensure they have a good holiday and maintain their dignity in so doing.

The SOS, said Sutherland, keeps information they receive confidential and ensure the experience is comfortable for those using their services.

To find out how to help, contact the SOS at 250-248-2093.

Watch The News for regular SOS Christmas Campaign fundraising updates.


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