By Lissa Alexander
Enjoying food and opening gifts with family at Christmas creates memories that last a lifetime, but without some extra help, some residents simply wouldn’t have those experiences.
Sarah (her name has been changed to protect her identity) credits the SOS Caring for Community at Christmas program with enabling her family to create these memories over the years.
“I didn’t have to worry that there was going to be a lack of certain foods around Christmas,” she said. “The program allows people who have lower incomes to be able to enjoy spending time with family and provide food and gifts for them, which is a show of love. And it sure eases the stress for people.”
Sarah says the Toy Shop is such a sight to behold and a positive experience for people who are struggling. Filled with a nice variety of gifts donated by the community, she said the volunteers are kind and helpful. One year she was able to find a set of drums for her son —a teenager now—and he continues to play music.
“He hasn’t stopped playing since,” she said.
The SOS Caring for Community at Christmas program has been assisting low-income residents for more than 50 years. The program provides special gifts for local children and youth, and grocery store gift cards for families and individuals. This year SOS hopes to raise $200,000 as higher needs are anticipated.
“We have already registered over 100 households, and right now we are averaging about 40 calls a day from residents looking to receive assistance this year,” said Susanna Newton, SOS executive director. “We expect to help more than 1,000 households this year as we know there is a greater need in our community, but we’re optimistic we will reach our financial goal and fill our Toy Shop.”
Sarah wants donors to know that a gift to the SOS Caring for Community at Christmas program is invaluable, and she’s forever grateful for the help she received.
“You’ve given a priceless gift to our family allowing us to be more comfortable and share happy memories together,” she said. “It’s such a wonderful thing to give in the community —it’s the community looking after each other.”
SOS has raised $21,247 so far this year for its Christmas program.
To support the program, donate online www.sosd69.com, call 250-248-2093, drop by the SOS Community Services Centre in Parksville with a financial or gift donation or mail a cheque to 245 West Hirst Ave. PO Box 898 Parksville, B.C., V9P 2G9. Locate an SOS Angel Tree at a participating business and buy the gift listed to help SOS fill the Toy Shop. More information, including Christmas drive-through tent dropoff times, can be found on the SOS website.