Imagine how heartbreaking it would feel if your child asked for one special thing at Christmas, and you were unable to provide it for them. That’s how Kellyanne remembers feeling for many Christmases, while raising three children on her own.
“I started out poor and very destitute, not knowing how I was going to keep my roof over my head, let alone raise three babies that wanted Christmas,” she says. “I just didn’t know where it was coming from. And out of SOS…it created a tradition.”
Kellyanne recalls those years as a “dark time” in her life. She worked hard at minimum wage jobs that didn’t pay enough to keep her and her family afloat, while also having to deal with domestic abuse. She relied on SOS programs and services to help get her and her family through that time. It has now been a decade since she accessed the Christmas program.
“I used SOS for 16 years and then managed to go back to school and managed not to need the Christmas fund as much, and I’ve been able to give back.”
The SOS Caring for Community at Christmas program ensures all local children and youth receive a special gift at Christmas, and families and individuals receive grocery store gift cards so they may choose food items that are meaningful to them over the holidays.
The program also ensures every family gets a book, and Kellyanne remembers how important those books were, and how they helped her children learn to read. Because of those memories, her adult children now provide books to their own children at Christmas.
Kellyanne also remembers one particular year when her pre-teen daughter really wanted a makeup kit. “She said, ‘I only want this one thing and it’s only like $25’… but to me it was like a million.” Kellyann will never forget when she saw a makeup kit in the SOS Toy Shop, with several brushes and pallets of colours and everything her daughter was dreaming of. “It was the one thing she wanted for Christmas… and it was there.”
SOS Angel Trees were created to help stock the SOS Toy Shop with popular items that local children and youth are wishing for. This year, 45 local businesses and organizations in the community are hosting SOS Angel trees. Locate an angel from one of these trees, purchase the gift listed (or as close to it as possible), and return your unwrapped gift to the store. Those gifts will help fill the SOS Toy Shop, where parents, caregivers and grandparents can shop for free this Christmas.
The list of Angel Tree businesses in Parksville, Qualicum Beach and Coombs can be found on the SOS website, www.sosd69.com.
Teresa Patterson, who co-owns Pacific Brimm Café and Catering with her son, has been hosting an Angel Tree for many years. “It’s just a great program, and we’re small, so it’s really great to feel like we’re giving something back and our guests just love it,” she said. The Brimm has a lot of regular customers, many who anticipate the Angel Tree this time of year and ask when it will be displayed, Patterson said. Pacific Brimm recently celebrated 20 years in the community, and today the café serves coffee, food and alcohol, while also offering catering services.
Stanford Auto has also been hosting an Angel Tree for many years, and although owner Dorothy Rowan said it isn’t as popular as it would be at a coffee shop, she feels it’s important to display the angels. “You get so many calls asking you to donate to this, that and the next thing, and I say ‘No, why would I donate to that when I can donate locally?’ And this is actually going to the kids.” Rowan said she usually ends up fulfilling a number of the angel wishes herself.
Kellyanne said it’s particularly hard this time of year for low-income parents, when they are trying to give their children the Christmas they deserve. She feels fortunate to be in a much better place now, but understands the hardship many families are facing.
“In all honesty, I don’t think I could have managed to raise my kids, really feeling like a participant in the holidays and festivities and stuff, without SOS,” she said. “Because I had no family resources, I had nowhere to jump in and get help, there was nothing.”
To help SOS create magic this Christmas for residents in-need, locate an SOS Angel Tree, or to make a donation, visit www.sosd69.com, call 250-248-2093, or drop in to the SOS Community Services Centre at 245 West Hirst Ave. in Parksville during business hours.
— Lissa Alexander is the
marketing co-ordinator at SOS