Barbara and Rick Donnelly with the Oceanside Newcomers Alumni Society show some of the Christmas stockings that their members filled for local isolated seniors. Many of the stockings were made by members of the Parksville Quilt House Quilters Guild. (Lissa Alexander photo)

Stockings for seniors in Parksville Qualicum Beach

SOS, other groups combine to put smiles on faces

BY LISSA ALEXANDER

Many isolated seniors in the Parksville Qualicum Beach community will feel a little touch of kindness this Christmas thanks to a collaborative effort from residents.

Christmas stockings for seniors is part of the SOS Caring for Community at Christmas program. Members of the local Newcomers’ Clubs purchase items such as books, socks, soaps and chocolates and fill Christmas stockings, many that have been handmade by members of the Parksville Quilt House Quilters Guild. SOS volunteers deliver the stockings to seniors who are shut-in or without close friends or family.

“It’s a good way for us to give back to the community and hopefully put a smile on people’s faces, and make people feel that they are thought of,” said Barbara Donnelly, who is a member of the Oceanside Newcomers Alumni Society (ONAS).

She and her husband Rick and are co-ordinating the stocking program for ONAS this year. ONAS is one of several newcomers’ clubs taking part in the program.

Melissa Rathbone is one of the volunteers at SOS who picks up the stockings and delivers them to seniors. She and partner Brian Carto took their young daughter with them on the deliveries last year.

“I think a lot of people really enjoyed it, it’s the only time they really get to see people or get things dropped off,” she said, adding that some people wanted to have a good conversation with them while they were there.

She said it was also a nice opportunity to show their daughter that Christmas is about more than receiving presents.

John McLenahan has been delivering stockings as an SOS volunteer for more than five years. He said he likes to do it mainly because it keeps him tuned in to the real world.

“There are a lot of people doing a lot of things that we don’t see, because we shield ourselves from that, our society, because we live so well and we assume everybody else does too. But there’s many other stories going on.”

He said some of the seniors get very emotional when he delivers the stockings and that can be hard, because many of them don’t have very much. But he still feels good about doing it.

“I can’t change their lives but I can give them another thing to think about for two or three hours, they are cheered up at least while you are there.”

READ MORE: Christmas program creating tradition for PQB single mother and daughter

Barbara and Rick said they wanted to take on the program for ONAS because there are so many isolated seniors around, and they hope the stockings deliver a message.

“There are people out there thinking of you and you’re not alone.”

The SOS Caring for Community at Christmas program also provides gifts for children and youth in low-income families and grocery store gift cards to families and individuals, so they can choose food that is important to them over the holidays.

SOS is hoping to raise $120,000 to meet the needs of all the residents who register for the program. To donate to the program visit the SOS website www.sosd69.com or call 250-248-2093. SOS is also gratefully accepting donations of new, unwrapped gifts for its Toy Shop.

Items can be dropped off at the SOS Community Services Centre in Parksville during business hours.

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