Something had to be done. It was 1968 and a number of concerned citizens noticed that needs of local schoolchildren and their families were going unmet. They were also troubled that some adults and seniors were going without basic necessities.
Some of these concerned citizens worked in the school district, and were aware that children were not getting enough nutritious food, and many were going without items such as eye glasses, orthopedic shoes, dental care, hearing aids and speech therapy, which resulted in poor progress at school.
The Society of Organized Services formed, designed to fill the gaps and “help people help themselves.” The group’s constitution was written stating that the society would provide measures to alleviate the needs of disadvantaged individuals and to assist those whose needs were not being met through government agencies, service clubs, or charitable organizations.
The idea was to develop an “organized volunteer service,” seeking those “willing to give of their time and talents.” Some of the areas identified were home management, babysitters for young mothers, someone to sit with an elderly person, drivers to take people to doctors’ appointments and simple home maintenance tasks for seniors, among other things.
In November, 1968, founding member Pauline Touzeau received a Certificate of Incorporation under the Societies Act, and by Christmas, volunteers were working to deliver the SOS Christmas program, led by “The Hamper Committee of District 69 Society of Organized Services.”
That first year, 36 hampers were distributed as community members of all ages came together to lend a hand for this new and important cause. All in all, $475 was raised, $200 coming from collection jars placed in local businesses. About $100 was donated in food, including locally grown hazelnuts and walnuts. Local schools and churches donated goods and volunteered their time, grocery stores gave discounts, and businesses donated packing materials and other items. Residents contributed money as well as donations of food and clothing, and department stores in Nanaimo and Port Alberni also made donations.
In 2016, when the SOS was celebrating its 49th year of the Christmas program, 1,217 gifts were provided to local children and 1,199 gift cards were given to adults. Last year, SOS surpassed its fundraising goal of $110,000, raising a total of $113,511.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the SOS Christmas program. Today the program continues to assist low-income families, and provides a special gift for children and teens, which is selected by parents from the SOS Toy Shop. Local grocery store gift cards are also provided to families and individuals, so they may choose food items that are meaningful to them over the holidays.
Early in 1969, SOS launched an appeal for funds to the community, with the phrase “We try to fill the void” on advertisements in the local newspaper. On March 6, 1969, a used clothing depot called S.O.S. Thrift Shop was opened at 149 Morison Avenue in Parksville in order to fund the proposed programs and services.
The rest, as they say, is history.
In 2018, SOS will host a number of public events:
• The SOS 50th Anniversary Parksville Summer Celebration, July 8, 2018, from 1 to 4 p.m. at the SOS Community Services Centre. A dedication ceremony will reveal a new friendship garden featuring a sculpture, created by local sculptor Mike Rebar. There will be activities for the whole family, inside as well as outside, including reptile shows, balloon animals and a dress-up area. There will also be live music and food available.
• The SOS 50th Anniversary Qualicum Summer Celebration, July 14, 2018, from noon to 2 p.m. at Qualicum Commons. This celebration will have a ’60s theme with activities such as hula hoops, limbo, a race with vintage clothing, lego and beads. There will be live music and food available.
• The SOS Golden Jubilee – A Community Celebration, Nov. 4 from 1-4 p.m. at the Parksville Community and Conference Centre. SOS officially became a society on Nov. 8, 1968. An SOS video will be revealed along with an excerpt from a new SOS book. Some brief speeches will celebrate this milestone, and cupcakes and refreshments will be served.