By Lissa Alexander
Society of Organized Services District 69 is restarting community programs and services as funds allow, but these may look different than what residents experienced in the past.
“We are having to make some adjustments to programming as a result of the pandemic and a smaller budget to work with,” said Susanna Newton, SOS executive director. “But we are very glad that we’re able bring back more of the programs residents rely on thanks to the community support we’ve received. We are also eager to get residents’ feedback to ensure our community’s emerging issues aren’t being overlooked, so we have put out an online survey.”
SOS has been providing essential services to residents throughout the pandemic, and has brought back priority programs when possible, such as the Income Tax Program in May, which was adjusted to a phone service, and Recreation Assistance for Children & Youth in August, in a reduced capacity. A small team of child, youth and family program staff are currently working to bring back programming this fall in a way that keeps participants, staff and volunteers safe.
With SOS Thrift Shop having to limit shoppers and donations as a result of COVID-19, Newton said SOS is not generating the revenue it did before the pandemic. Previously, SOS Thrift Shop provided about 80 per cent of the funding needed for the 30 programs and services SOS offered to residents of all ages.
The Grateful Hearts Campaign that SOS launched in April has raised more than $200,000 and that has allowed the organization to continue providing things like emergency assistance for food and medicine, Meals on Wheels, Counselling Referral, grocery shopping for seniors, and support for homeless individuals, among other essential services. Ensuring there are also free community programs for children, youth and families is a priority for the organization, Newton said.
“There are so many benefits to our child, youth and family programs,” she said. “Children get to play and develop social and motor skills. Parents get support, they build friendships, they get a much-needed break, and we provide food and fun activities. We know how important these programs are to our participants and we’re doing all we can to bring back some semblance of what we offered before the pandemic hit.”
SOS has been filling gaps in social services in the Parksville Qualicum Beach region since 1968, and to help identify the current gaps, the organization has launched a ‘Take Stock’ survey. Visit the SOS website or its social media pages to find the survey, which is open until Aug. 31.
To support SOS essential services, and to help bring back programs for children, youth and families, donate online at www.sosd69.com, call 250-248-2093 or mail a cheque to the Parksville Community Services Centre.