Without the help of the community, *Sandy would not have been able to give her two boys Christmas several years ago.
“It was worst time of my life, and the community came together, and that program… it saved me, it put faith in my heart that there are people out there that really care.”
The program Sandy is referring to is the SOS Caring for Community at Christmas program. (*Her name has been changed to protect her identity.) It was December and her landlord had sold the house she was renting and she needed to move her family before Christmas. After paying for moving and all the costs that come with it, she had little left for anything else.
SOS was able to provide her with a Christmas tree and gifts for her children, as well as a local grocery store gift card so she could choose food that she and her boys looked forward to over the holidays.
One of the ways SOS is able to provide gifts to families who register for the Christmas program is through the Angel Tree program. Local businesses and organizations hang SOS Angel ornaments from their Christmas trees, and on the back of each ornament, a gift is listed. These gifts have been identified as popular items that local children and youth have been asking for. Patrons take an ornament, purchase the gift listed on the back (or as close to it as possible) and return it to the store. SOS volunteers pick up the gifts, which help stock the SOS Toy Shop, where low-income parents and grandparents shop for free.
“It’s a good thing to do for the community,” said Anthony Veselisin, general manager of Lefty’s restaurants in Parksville and Qualicum Beach. “It helps families that are less fortunate and it supports our community.”
Lefty’s has been hosting an SOS Angel Tree for many years, and both staff and customers look forward to participating, Veselisin said.
Bigfoot Burgers in Whiskey Creek opened in May of this year and is hosting its first SOS Angel Tree. After setting up the tree recently, there are already four gifts underneath it. Owner Ted Spence said he thinks Arrowsmith Coombs Country residents appreciate the opportunity to contribute in this way. He said it’s hard to comprehend what its like for families who are struggling at Christmas.
“I don’t know what they are going through but all you can do is try to help get their Christmas closer to what I experienced and I loved.”
The Regional District of Nanaimo has been hosting Angel Trees at Ravensong Pool and Oceanside Arena for many years. Davina at the pool said it is a great program that helps pool patrons support the community in an easy and accessible way.
“We have it set up for them, they can pick up [the Angels] here and drop their gifts off here, and the regulars really look forward to it.”
Some years pool patrons have helped filled several garbage bags with gifts, Davina said.
Sandy said that when she went to select gifts for her boys in the SOS Toy Shop, the selection of gifts was amazing, and she was able to find gifts that they loved. The volunteers were very friendly, and the whole experience was very positive she said.
“You actually made my little boys’ Christmas,” she said of the SOS Christmas program.
There are more than 30 local businesses and organizations participating in the Angel Tree program this year. Please visit the SOS website for a complete list: www.sosd69.com.