As the threat of illness, job loss and uncertainty loomed in our communities this summer, staff at the Society of Organized Services (District 69) also noticed something wonderful happening.
“Our volunteers were contacting us saying they would like to do something to help, and we noticed many helping hands throughout our communities,” said SOS executive director, Susanna Newton.
As a result of the three-month closure of the SOS Thrift Shop due to the pandemic, SOS revenues have been down substantially. Staff has had to develop other vehicles to keep vital community programs and services available. The idea to capture the goodwill, generosity and strength of the community in the form of a fundraising calendar was developed. Three local professional photographers signed on to help out with the project, documenting what was happening around them.
“Pretty much everyone who was asked for photos was cheerful and eager to help the cause,” said photographer Brian Argyle. “It made the project all the more enjoyable, knowing we were all working towards something positive.”
Argyle, Randy Hall, Lisa Hayward and SOS marketing co-ordinator Lissa Alexander took photos of frontline workers, volunteers, and people working at and supporting local businesses, capturing the mood and energy in a variety of areas in our region.
The idea resonated with photographers and businesses alike.
“Certainly, these are unusual times for everyone, everywhere,” said Argyle. “Day-to-day images of scenes or people in the area helped reinforce just how resilient we all are in adjusting to new routines.”
Many sponsors came forward to support the project, and numerous businesses agreed to purchase the calendars to sell to patrons.
Tigh-Na-Mara also donated a prize package that one lucky person will win on Feb. 1. Every calendar has a number on the back, and each purchase offers a chance to win a deluxe 2-night stay at Tigh-Na-Mara, including a soak, sip and savour experience in the Grotto Spa, and a gift certificate to Cedars Restaurant & Lounge. Proceeds from the sale of the calendars will help SOS continue offering vital programs and services like emergency assistance and advocacy, seniors advocacy and Caring for Community at Christmas while also helping to restart and expand other programs.
The Caring for Community at Christmas program is offered to low-income residents, providing a special gift for local children and youth, and grocery store gift cards to families and individuals. Due to the pandemic and an anticipated increase in needs, SOS is starting the Christmas distribution process early. Christmas co-ordinator April Deleau hopes that donations for the SOS Toy Shop and funds for the grocery store gift cards will start to climb soon.
“Our toy shop opens in early December and we don’t have many gifts for teens and tweens,” she said. “Hopefully people will be in a position to give this year.”
To support the SOS Christmas program, make a donation online at www.sosd69.com, call 250-248-2093 or drop by the SOS Community Services Centre in Parksville (245 West Hirst Ave.) with your donation. To ensure limited contact with others, a Christmas gift dropoff tent is set up Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
To find a list of retail locations to purchase the SOS Calendar, visit the about section of the SOS website.