Need exceeds expectation

Campaign sees $102,000 raised, more than 2,000 people helped

Oceanside Royal LePage agents donated $18

Oceanside Royal LePage agents donated $18

Every year, the Society of Organized Services holds a Christmas campaign to raise money for their program to help families and children in need get through the holidays.

For the second straight year, the community rallied and helped the SOS exceed their goal of $95,000. This last effort saw more than $102,000 donated by the community — a tremendous response, and needed.

SOS executive director Renate Sutherland said the demand for their services in December was way up over last year. She said they expected around 2,000 people — children and their families — in the program. There ended up being 2,009 individuals who received grocery vouchers, toys and more to help make ends meet. Sutherland said the numbers were on target, but they are indicators that more people face uncertain times as the local economy remains unstable.

Many of the people using the SOS program this time were first-timers, she said.

“It’s indicative of the economy,” she said. “When people need this kind of assistance, it means there might be only one person in a family working, or down to part-time or ever lower-paying jobs.”

The community stepped up in a big way once again, Sutherland continued, providing toys and gifts for children and families, and adding to the SOS’s campaign funds. While that money is all but gone now, the SOS continues to deliver programs to help people, young and old.

These programs, she said, are now being evaluated for possible upgrades next year.

Surveys have gone out and focus groups are being polled for their opinions on SOS programs. Sutherland said staff are in the process of collecting this information as they look to make improvements to many of their programs.

“We need to make sure that we are running the programs correctly,” she explained. “They have to meet people’s needs and they must work.”

Simply because they’ve run a program the same for years, doesn’t mean it’s the right way, or best way, she continued. And that goes for the annual Christmas is for Kids Campaign. Sutherland said it has been close to 30 years without a comprehensive review of the program.

“The community has changed a bit over that time. There are new people here, there are more community groups here.”

This process of program updates started close to two years ago, Sutherland said. The staff look at four or five programs each year and try to improve them. Because the Christmas program is so big, they’re only reviewing two or three this year.

“There won’t be massive changes to the Christmas program,” said Sutherland, adding it works well, but like anything, it could be improved to better serve a changing community.

One aspect that hopefully won’t change, is the level of support it receives. In addition to widespread community donations, it garners 100-plus volunteers each year. That alone, said Sutherland, is a big reason for the campaign’s success.