By Lissa Alexander
Penny has had a hard time making ends meet since becoming a single mother of four, but this year she’s feeling a little more hopeful.
Penny is accessing the SOS Caring for Community at Christmas program for the first time, and she looks forward to seeing the smiles on her boys’ faces when they wake up Christmas morning.
“Christmas isn’t all about gifts, but when you’re a kid, they look under the tree and think, ‘oh look, I have a few to open!’ It just means so much to them,” she said, explaining that she has no disposable income and wouldn’t be able to shop for gifts.
The SOS Caring for Community at Christmas program provides special gifts for local children and youth. Families, as well as individuals without children, receive grocery store gift cards so they can shop for food that is meaningful to them over the holidays. SOS wants to raise $200,000 to meet the needs of everyone who registers for the program this year. Donations of new, unwrapped gifts will help fill the Toy Shop where parents and grandparents in need can shop for free for their children.
Lana has been accessing the program for five years, helping to provide gifts for her two children and two foster children (her name has been changed to protect her identity).
“I went through a bad divorce and became disabled, and the kids suffer, and they shouldn’t have to suffer,” she explained. Lana said her girls love to read and one year there were extra books in the Toy Shop thanks to a donation from a local bookstore. The girls were thrilled, she said. Another year, her 11-year-old son received a bike.
“He had outgrown his bike, so he didn’t have one. He was totally surprised when he got it, and so was I when I walked in [to the SOS Toy Shop] and saw it,” she said. “It was pretty exciting.”
There are many local businesses helping SOS support residents this Christmas, including Kalvas The Log House Restaurant, which is hosting its Meals for More initiative again. When residents bring in a new, unwrapped gift or financial donation to Kalvas during the month of December, they will receive a free dessert from the restaurant’s house-made dessert menu. Kalvas is located at 180 Moilliet Street in Parksville. Call 250-248-6933 for reservations or more information.
M&N Mattress & Sofa Gallery is also partnering with SOS this year to provide the gift of good sleep to residents in need. Owner Mark Nagra said M&N Mattress & Sofa Gallery will donate 12 mattresses, mattress covers and pillows to SOS to distribute to residents who need them. Previously, M&N Mattress had been delivering mattresses to residents in need at Christmas, which they called their 12 Days of Christmas Giveaway.
“I was driving to work one day, and I heard something about 12 days of Christmas, and I thought, ‘hey, 12 days of Christmas, 12 mattresses for our local community, sounds like a good idea,’” he said.
Nagra said this is the 22nd year M&N Mattress has been doing business in the community, and this is their way of giving back to the community that has supported them. The mattresses are high quality and B.C. made. Local families with children in need of a mattress can contact SOS to be considered for this giveaway until Dec. 22. Call 250-248-2093 ext. 241.
To learn more about the SOS Caring for Community at Christmas program, or to make a financial donation visit www.sosd69.com, call 250-248-2093 or drop in with a gift or financial donation during business hours to the SOS Community Services Centre in Parksville.
There are also 35 local businesses with an SOS Angel Tree, listing gifts that are in demand in the SOS Toy Shop. Visit the SOS website to locate the businesses and learn how to participate.
If you need extra support this Christmas, register for the SOS Christmas program at the SOS Community Services Centre Monday to Friday, 9:15 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and 1:15 p.m. to 2:45 p.m.