arrived on a cold November morning to the SOS, a piece of mail that made everyone stop what they were doing.
The envelope was addressed to the SOS Christmas Program, with no return address and sealed with layers of scotch tape. Inside there was a wrinkled, five-dollar bill.
Perhaps the sender has been helped by the program in the past, perhaps they’ve seen what it has done for others in the community, whatever the reason, the offering brought with it some extra Christmas spirit to the office that day, and reaffirmed the magic of giving.
There are a number of individuals, families, businesses and organizations that come together to assist the SOS with its Caring for Kids at Christmas program, to try and make Christmas special for local residents. If you would like to donate visit www.sosd69.com, or drop in Monday-Friday 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. to the SOS located at 245 West Hirst Ave. in Parksville.
The Tigh-Na-Mara Toy Drive is a boom for the SOS Christmas program. Running since 2009, last year almost 1,600 people attended the event, bringing with them a new, unwrapped gift or donation and receiving a free breakfast. The toys help fill the SOS Toy Shop, where low-income parents, grandparents and caregivers can pick a gift for their children and youth. Cash donations buy local grocery store gift cards for adults.
The Tigh-Na-Mara Toy Drive is taking place on Nov. 26 this year, with breakfast going from 6:30-10 a.m. For those short on time, there is a drive-through breakfast and toy drop-off from 7:30-10 a.m. and people can enjoy a quick coffee, tea and muffin. General Manager of Tigh-Na-Mara and the man who started the event, Paul Drummond, said he loves the sense of community and enthusiasm created by the event, including his staff members who enjoy volunteering their time every year to run the show. He said other organizations who are doing toy drives for the same cause are welcome to come drop off their toys, as was done by Joe Cunningham from his car dealership in Parksville a couple of years ago.
“Joe came by with two or three vans full of toys,” he said. “That was really cool.”
The Qualicum Beach Newcomers Association has been assisting the SOS by putting together stockings for individuals in this community since 2006.
“These are shut-ins, elderly people, people who don’t have family or are having hardship — anybody in need that doesn’t get a little bit of Christmas cheer,” explained Andrea Morgan, who is co-ordinating the Christmas Stocking program with Cyndi Jarvis. The two are hoping their members will stuff 150 stockings this year with things like chocolate, books, soap, scarves and other items of their choice. Morgan and Jarvis will then deliver the stockings to the SOS which will distribute them to a list of its clients, and also to seniors referred by other local organizations. Members of the public are welcome to call the SOS if they know someone who would benefit from a stocking.
Seniors coordinator at the SOS, Dawn Barry, will be facilitating the distribution of the stockings again this year. She said last year she heard wonderful feedback from volunteer drivers who delivered the stockings, and she was able to give a stocking to a client herself at the SOS. The senior indicated there would be nothing under her tree that Christmas, and when Barry surprised her with the stocking, she was overcome with emotion.
“She just wrapped both arms around the stocking and hugged it,” Barry said. “It was very moving.”
Two Newcomer Alumni groups also assist in filling stockings for the program.
The Parksville Qualicum Beach News runs Coins for Kids every year to benefit the SOS and Salvation Army. The program started as Pennies for Presents in 1996 by Black Press Newspapers on Vancouver Island. “For the past two years, readers of The NEWS have contributed $6,500 for these two worthy community organizations,” said Parksville Qualicum Beach News publisher, Peter McCully. In the coming weeks, readers will have the opportunity to donate to Coins for Kids online, via www.blackpress4good.com.
Last year, the SOS received 882 applications for help, encompassing 1,194 adults and 966 children in this community. In order to meet the needs of the community again this year, the SOS is trying to raise $115,000 and enough gifts to ensure all children and youth in the community have something to unwrap on Christmas morning. For more information call 250-248-2093.