Shelly Cockney and her daughter Maria take a break on the couch at the SOS Child

Shelly Cockney and her daughter Maria take a break on the couch at the SOS Child

Parksville’s SOS lights up the season

The SOS Caring for Kids at Christmas Program gives toys to kids in-need in the Parksville Qualicum area

Shelly Cockney has been connected with SOS services for nearly 10 years, but there is another reason the SOS Child, Youth and Family Centre holds a special place in her heart.

“That’s where I met my boyfriend,” said the Parksville resident. “We used to do clay art together.”

The couple met at the Teen Nite program seven years ago and is now expecting their second child in January. Meanwhile, their four-year-old child Maria is thoroughly enjoying the TIC TAC program (Time in Comfort for Tots & Caregivers), where she makes crafts and shares important play-time with other children.

“She likes the socialization,” Cockney explained. “She’s very, very social.”

TIC TAC is also a great place for Cockney to get support and find out about other resources available at the SOS and in the community.

Cockney accessed the Youth Employment Skills Link Program (YESL) years ago at the SOS where she learned life skills and gained work experience. This program is no longer running but she remembers it fondly, and said it probably also helped keep her out of trouble.

“YESL really helped me out and gave me something positive to do,” she said.

When Cockney was pregnant with Maria, she used SOS’ Emergency Assistance Program in order to get food vouchers. She has also accessed that program for assistance buying clothing from the SOS Thrift Shop for job interviews.

Since 2009, Cockney has been registering for the Caring for Kids at Christmas Program to help her give Maria a nice Christmas.

“That program helps out a lot because it’s really hard around Christmas with bills and stuff— it’s hard to be able to get toys for her.”

Cockney said she tells her friends about SOS programs when she hears they are struggling to afford food or need assistance with their children. At Christmas time, the SOS takes new, unwrapped toys that have been donated by the community, and creates an entire Toy Shop. There, low-income parents and caregivers can then “shop” for free for their children. Cash donations help buy grocery store gift cards for families and individuals so they may look forward to a good meal during the holidays.

The SOS Caring for Kids at Christmas Program needs the community’s assistance in order to continue giving the children and youth of our community a happy and memorable Christmas.

People can bring in monetary donations or new, unwrapped gifts to the SOS, located at 245 West Hirst Avenue in Parksville, from 8:30-4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. People may also visit a local participating business and purchase the gift (or as close to it as possible) listed on one of the SOS Angel Trees. These are gifts that have been identified as in-demand in the Toy Shop.

During the 2013 Christmas campaign, SOS received 882 applications for help, encompassing 1,194 adults and 966 children in this community. All of these local residents were given assistance thanks to support from the community.

Registration for the Christmas program is open daily for low-income residents beginning Nov. 17. Apply in person from 9:30-3:30 pm at the SOS. People must remember to bring photo ID (for each adult 18+ years applying), proof of residency, and care cards for children who are living at home full time.

For more information on the SOS, visit www.sosd69.com.

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