Local youth attending an SOS program in Qualicum Beach hold up a sign to remind the community not to forget about teens and tweens this Christmas. (Lissa Alexander photo)

Local youth attending an SOS program in Qualicum Beach hold up a sign to remind the community not to forget about teens and tweens this Christmas. (Lissa Alexander photo)

SOS needs Christmas gifts for teens and tweens in Parksville Qualicum Beach

COVID-19 forces charitable group to make some changes this year

Don’t forget about the local youth.

It’s a message SOS Christmas co-ordinator April Deleau would like people to keep in mind if they are in the position to give this Christmas.

“Teenagers are still kids at heart, and when their siblings find that special package under the tree, it would be nice if there was something there for them, too,” she said.

For more than 50 years, the SOS Caring for Community at Christmas program has been providing gifts for children and youth. Families and individuals receive local grocery store gift cards so they may choose food that is important to them over the holidays.

This year, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, SOS has had to make some adjustments to the program, but the local charity is still hopeful it will garner enough community support to meet the needs of all residents who register for the program.

SOS offers a variety of youth programs, and program co-ordinators are aware of the needs families are currently facing.

“A teen in Qualicum was walking by our program recently and smelled our food, and came in and said they were so glad we were open because they hadn’t eaten all day,” said Hollie Francis, SOS child, youth and family co-ordinator in Qualicum Beach.

READ MORE: Reinventing Parksville Qualicum Beach’s popular Tigh-Na-Mara Toy Drive

SOS child, youth and family programs manager Alice Tulia said she and her team know that local families are struggling to put food on the table. “One in six children in Oceanside live in food insecure households,” Tulia said. “And that is five times higher for single mothers.”

She said many local youth don’t have access to fresh fruits and vegetables at home, so SOS always provides lots in programming. Tulia said she has seen youth hoard food because they don’t know when they’ll get to eat next, and she has had youth ask if they can take food home to their siblings, so they can eat.

SOS recognizes that local families need help with groceries, which is why it provides local grocery store gift cards at Christmas, while also providing a special gift that youth can look forward to.

“Some children are very lucky and receive numerous gifts at Christmas,” said Deleau. “We want to make sure that youth in low-income families find something special under their tree that will bring a smile to their face, whether that be a local gift card, a gift card to Woodgrove Mall, some new headphones, or a wallet.”

A list of gifts for teens and tweens can be found on the SOS website. Alternatively, people can find an SOS Angel tree at a local participating business and purchase the gift listed on the ornament. Those are gifts that SOS is in need of in the Toy Shop, where parents and grandparents shop for free.

In order to keep everyone safe this Christmas and limit people coming into the SOS Community Services Centre, residents can drop-off new, unwrapped gifts at the Christmas tent located outside the building (at 245 West Hirst Ave. in Parksville), on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. For more information, or to make a financial donation, visit www.sosd69.com or call 250-248-2093.

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