Many years ago, Catherine Morin pledged to pay it forward.
She and her husband bought a house, and within a month, they had no money.
“We were very young, we had no clue what we were doing,” she said. “We bought in October and by the end of November we were absolutely flat broke. Although all our bills were paid, we had no money.”
Morin said she and her husband ate Kraft Dinner so they could give their kids meat, vegetables and fruit. And then something wonderful happened. A friend of hers knew about their financial hardship, and she delivered $1,000 worth of groceries to her home.
“So I came home one afternoon to discover that everything was stocked. And I thought at that time, if there was any way I could pay this forward, I would always do it.”
Morin, who owns Oceanside Ladies Fitness in Qualicum Beach, is hosting an SOS Angel Tree again this year, helping stock the SOS Toy Shop for families in-need.
Her clients are very supportive of the program. They purchase specific gifts listed on SOS angel ornaments that hang on the store’s Christmas tree, and return them to Oceanside Ladies Fitness.
The gifts listed are in high demand in the SOS Toy Shop. SOS Volunteers will be picking up the gifts and bringing them to the SOS Toy Shop where families can shop for free. Morin said she doesn’t know why the program is so successful at her location, but she has an idea.
“All of these women are incredibly generous in spirit and have been throughout the whole time I’ve worked here,” she said. “They are also a little bit older, so they have a little bit more understanding of what happens to people through life.”
Her staff members, Kathy Horne and Chelsea Larsen also support the program, and if there are any Angel ornaments left on the tree when it’s pick up time, Larsen goes and gets those, Morin said.
There are 39 local businesses and organizations hosting SOS Angel Trees this year for the SOS Caring for Community at Christmas program.
Home Hardware-Central Builders in French Creek is also hosting a tree, and a number of the angel ornaments went during a Ladies Night event held in November. Staff and customers are also chipping in to purchase the gifts on the Angels.
“Like a lot of people, we recognise the need to bring some cheer and just wanted to do something to help in that way,” said Joanne Young, office assistant at Home Hardware – Central Builders.
Boston Pizza is hosting a tree, and offering incentives to guests who contribute to the program. “Anyone who brings in a gift, gets a $10 gift certificate to Boston Pizza and a chance to win a snowboard,” said Sarah McShane who does Marketing for Boston Pizza in Parksville.
McShane said they are a part of this community, and they want to make sure people who don’t have a lot, experience some joy at Christmas.
Find a list of participating SOS Angel Tree businesses on the SOS website, www.sosd69.com. SOS will start distributing gifts from the Toy Shop on Dec. 13, and will continue to help families and individuals right up until Dec. 21.
SOS is also gratefully accepting monetary donations, to reach its goal of $110,000, in order to purchase grocery store gift cards for families and individuals who register for the program. Donate online, by phone at 250-248-2093 or in person at the SOS Community Services Centre in Parksville, 245 West Hirst Ave.
— Submitted by Lissa Alexander