Special to The News
Tom Burton and his daughter experienced a tragedy seven years ago, but there was some light that came out of the darkness.
The local senior is a single father of a 10-year-old child. His daughter had been with him for a year when the tragedy struck and she was a toddler at the time.
“Our trailer burned down and we lost everything. And the SOS, when it came around Christmastime, because it happened in November, they knew about it and they went out of their way to help us through Christmas and make it as enjoyable as possible.”
The SOS Caring for Kids at Christmas program ensures every local child has a gift to unwrap on Christmas morning, and adults receive grocery store gift cards so they may enjoy food that is meaningful to them over the holidays. The program is funded by community donations and the SOS is hoping to raise $110,000 to meet the needs of all residents this Christmas. Donate online, over the phone at 250-248-2093 or in person at either SOS Child, Youth & Family Centre in Qualicum Beach or Parksville during office hours.
Over the years, the SOS Christmas program has helped Burton provide some gifts for his daughter, and the grocery store gift cards have helped him make it through the holidays, until his funds come in January, he said.
“With today’s social structure being tougher and tougher for parents to get through Christmas, [SOS] does their utmost best to provide for our kids.”
Ruth Stevens agreed. She is a local grandparent that has accessed the SOS Christmas program in order to get presents for her six grandchildren.
She said it allows her to get a special gift for her grandchildren when otherwise they might not get anything. One year, one of her grandchildren was delighted to receive a chest full of princess dresses, and another year her teenage grandchild was thrilled with a La Vie en Rose gift certificate so she could choose her own pajamas, Stevens remembers.
Stevens has shared the Christmas program with others in the community who she knows are going through a tough time, and many of them are reluctant to use the program, she said.
“I have mentioned to a few grandparents who said, no I can’t do that, and I say ‘if you’re taking out of your food pocket and the grandchild is not going to get anything and you feel bad about that, don’t feel bad [about going to SOS], because that’s what the program is all about.’”
Stevens gives back where she can, by volunteering not only for SOS but also at the Salvation Army Soup Kitchen. “I say to them, ‘if you are going to feel bad then put in some volunteer hours and you’ll feel better about what you take,’” she explained. “I always give in what I take out. I like volunteering and I enjoy people.”
The SOS Child, Youth & Family Centre in Parksville is located at 245 West Hirst Ave. The Qualicum Beach location is at Qualicum Commons, located at 744 Primrose St. Both Centres are open for monetary donations, or donations of new, unwrapped gifts Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m-4:30 p.m.
— Lissa Alexander is the marketing co-ordinator at SOS.