Special to The NEWS
There are local seniors who have no friends or family in the area and are unlikely to receive anything at Christmas.
But thanks to the local Newcomers’ clubs and a partnership with SOS, seniors who are shut-in and generally on their own this time of year, will receive hand-delivered Christmas stockings, or bags filled with small gifts.
“This is a Newcomers initiative. Some time in the past, one of the Newcomers decided to do this and it’s been passed on,” explained Sylvie Bart, who is co-ordinating the Stocking program for the Qualicum Beach Newcomers Club with her husband Jack Yensen for the second time. “The generosity comes from all the individuals in the Newcomers clubs that give from their heart.”
Members from the local Newcomers and Newcomers Alumni Clubs have been participating in the stocking program for a number of years, where they fill stockings or gift bags with items like soaps, toques, ornaments, socks, books and handmade gifts. Some of the stockings have been handmade by the Parksville Quilt House Quilters Guild, others have been purchased, and one club has chosen to use gift bags. The recipients have been identified through SOS. Once Newcomers Club members have filled the stockings or gift bags, they deliver them to SOS, and SOS volunteers deliver the stockings to local seniors.
Beyond the stockings, local adults and seniors can receive assistance at Christmas through the SOS Caring for Kids at Christmas program. The program ensures all local children and youth have a special gift to unwrap Christmas, and families, adults and seniors can receive grocery store gift cards once registered in the program. SOS is hoping to raise $110,000 this Christmas to meet all the needs of local residents, and it is not quite halfway to that goal. To donate to the program visit www.sosd69.com, call 250-248-2093 or drop by either SOS Child, Youth & Family Centre in Parksville or Qualicum Beach, Monday through Friday,
8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
Dan Whiting is a volunteer driver with SOS and has been delivering the stockings for the past couple of years.
“The smiles that come on their faces are like kids at Christmas,” said Whiting. “They weren’t expecting a gift and there you are at their doorstep.”
Whiting said often the seniors are a bit reserved at first when they see a stranger on their doorstep, but once he explains that he is delivering a stocking from the Newcomers Club, their disposition changes.
“You see this transformation as people realize what you’re doing there,” he said. “They are quite overwhelmed by the thoughtfulness. So the Christmas spirit really does come into their eyes and you can see it.”
Bart said she and her husband like coordinating the Stocking program for the Qualicum Beach Newcomers Club because the excitement around giving is so heartwarming.
“It’s so wonderful to see the faces of the Newcomers and the people who want to give, they are so excited about getting the bag and filling it, they enjoy the shopping and putting special things in each bag, everybody is so generous and then when they bring it back there is such an excitement, they are so proud of it. So it’s very nice and rewarding to do.”
Yensen said he hopes the seniors who receive the stockings feel a sense of Christmas and know that the community cares. He said circumstances can change quickly and many people, including himself, could be in that position one day.
Eleanour Rehaume and Yvonne Wardas from the Qualicum Beach Alumni Newcomers Association agree. Rehaume said a number of the Newcomers in her group are singles.
“Many of my friends don’t have family here and a lot of us are single, and we rely on each other,” she said. “I agree it could be any one of us one day.”
Rehaume and Wardas have been co-ordinating the program with their club for a number of years. They said they begin working on the program in November and it helps get them in the Christmas spirit.
They said the stockings or bags the seniors receive might be the only touch of Christmas they receive. “We hope [the seniors] know we have thought about them when we were buying,” said Rehaume. “And we hope it helps them feel as though people care,” added Wardas.
Whiting said he really enjoys delivering the stockings to the seniors and is glad to be a part of the program.
“When Dawn (at SOS) asked if I’m available to deliver this year… of course you want to do something like that,” he said. “It goes both ways, [the seniors] are feeling the Christmas spirit and it costs nothing but time and a little gas, and you really get to see the appreciation and surprise from the person. That’s a magic moment, and that’s a place where you want to be.”
— Lissa Alexander is the marketing director at SOS. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org