50th Anniversary Backgrounder

Something had to be done. It was 1968 and a number of concerned citizens noticed that needs were going unmet by local school children and their families. They were also troubled that some adults and “older people” were going without basic necessities.

Some of these concerned citizens worked in the school district, and were aware that children were not getting enough nutritious food, and many were going without items such as eye glasses, orthopedic shoes, dental care, hearing aids and speech therapy, which resulted in poor progress at school.

The Society of Organized Services formed, designed to fill the gaps and “help people help themselves”. The constitution was written stating that the Society would provide measures to alleviate the needs of disadvantaged individuals and to assist those whose needs are not being met through government agencies, service clubs, or charitable organizations.

The idea was to develop an “organized volunteer service”, seeking those “willing to give of their time and talents”. Some of the positions mentioned were home management, babysitters for young mothers, someone to sit with an elderly person, drivers to take persons to the doctor or hospital, men handy with tools to do maintenance for elderly persons among other things.”

By the end of October 1968 founder Pauline Touzeau had applied for registration with the Societies Act and a bank account was set up in Parksville with a $40 deposit.

In November, the group received their Certificate of Incorporation under the Societies Act, and by Christmas 1968 volunteers were working to deliver the first program, the SOS Christmas program, led by “The Hamper Committee of District 69 Society of Organized Services.”

That first year 36 hampers were distributed as community members of all ages came together to lend a hand for this new and important cause.

All-in-all $475 was raised, $200 of that from collection jars placed in local businesses. About $100 was donated in food, including locally grown hazelnuts and walnuts. Local schools and churches donated goods and volunteered their time, grocery stores gave discounts, and businesses donated packing materials and other items. Residents contributed money as well as donations of food and clothing, and department stores in Nanaimo and Port Alberni also made donations.

Early in 1969, SOS launched an appeal for funds to the community, with the phrase “We try to fill the void” on advertisements in the local newspaper. On March 6, 1969, a used clothing depot called S.O.S. Thrift Shop was opened at 149 Morison Street in Parksville in order to fund the proposed programs and services.

The rest, as they say, is history.

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