Join our upcoming events and become more connected to your community!

SOS is committed to enhancing our residents’ quality of life, including promoting healthy social lives and interpersonal connections.

Our events combat isolation, educate, inspire and help raise awareness of the resources available at SOS.

We also want to keep our pulse on the community, by listening to our residents’ thoughts, suggestions and interests.
Your input is valuable and could help shape future events. Click below to fill out a brief survey.

Feb. 17 Insights – The Power of Kindness

Feb. 17 Insights – The Power of Kindness


“When I was young, I admired clever people.
Now that I am old, I admire kind people.”
~ Abraham Joshua Heschel
What do you do when you pass a stranger on the street?  Do you smile and say hello, or do you keep your head down and keep on walking?
I think it depends on where you’ve come from. If you’re from a big city, you might not feel comfortable making eye contact. However, if you have lived here all your life or come from a smaller community, chances are you find it easier to strike up a conversation with a total stranger. And you never know, it might be the first kind gesture that stranger may have received all day. To me, that’s what kindness and community is all about.
In celebration of Kindness Week, and Random Acts of Kindness Day (today!) I am offering several ideas to help you perform some random acts of kindness towards a stranger, especially towards someone who is different from yourself. Here’s some ideas to get your going:
  • If you’re a gardener, take some fresh flowers to a nursing home.
  • Smile and say hi to the bank clerk, the grocery store cashier, the person walking their dog, the construction worker. You get the idea. It’s about just being more open and human.
  • Start a trend of “pay it forward” at the coffee drive-through.
  • Write a thank-you note to your letter carrier.
  • Offer to return someone’s grocery cart in the parking lot.
  • Let someone in ahead of you in the grocery store line.
  • Let someone else take the closer parking spot.
  • Buy a warm meal for a stranger in need.
  • Leave a great tip at a restaurant along with a note saying thanks for the service.
  • Take a basket of cookies or muffins to a new neighbour. Remember a stranger is just a friend you haven’t met yet.  Take the time to meet them.
  • Sign up as a volunteer to deliver meals, pick up groceries or drive residents to their medical appointments.
  • Buy gift cards from a coffee shop or fast-food restaurant to give to people who are living on the street or in a shelter.
  • Give an unexpected compliment – “I really appreciate your great service today.” “You’re really great with your dog.” “Your garden looks beautiful.”  “That’s a great colour on you.” Make it respectful, genuine, and appropriate.
Never underestimate the power of kindness to change someone’s day and possibly their life. And remember to treat everyone with politeness, even those who are rude to you. Not because they are nice, but because you are.
With our kind and grateful hearts,
Susanna Newton
SOS Executive Director
Jan. 27 Insights – We are all community!

Jan. 27 Insights – We are all community!


Kevin & Nancy, proud supporters

Having been born in other countries before immigrating to Canada, Nancy and Kevin’s experiences and observations of varying communities have shaped their lives and their philanthropy.

“I was born in West Virginia and then moved to New York state when I was only six years old,” said Nancy. “I saw everything from people living in the depths of poverty in West Virginia to then living in a community of people who included some of the wealthiest people on the planet. The contrast between poverty and wealth stayed with me and has impacted the way I think about everything, including philanthropy.”

Kevin was born in London, England and lived there until his family immigrated to North Vancouver in the late ‘50s and after a few years there, he moved to Lasqueti Island in 1971 where he met Nancy the following year. That’s when they began their lives together, commercial fishing, growing their own food and becoming part of a growing Island community for 25 years.

In the mid ‘90s, they moved to Victoria for a short time and then to Ottawa for a brief stint when Kevin was seconded to the Department of Transport. They returned to the Oceanside area in 2012 where Kevin now teaches and writes courses for the Western Maritime Institute. Nancy is never far away, with a cup of tea in one hand and knee deep in soil, tending to her vegetable garden. Like so many fellow travelers, they are happy to be back. Although there are so many things that have changed over the years.

For instance, they reminisce about how back in the 70s, nearly 80% of all produce eaten on the Island was grown on the Island. But with the massive land development over the years, now it’s down to less than 10%. For people who have lived off the land for generations, that option no longer exists. And with the rising cost of housing, groceries, and fuel, it’s become even more challenging for people to live comfortably. The contrast between poverty and wealth is all too familiar to Nancy and it appears to be widening.

So, when we asked Nancy and Kevin what influenced their commitment to community and their reasons for supporting SOS, Kevin explained:

“When we first settled here in the ‘70s, the one thing that really stood out to us was how the community looks out for the needs of everyone. People who are mentally, physically, or financially challenged all know they matter and can count on help from SOS. From the early days of the first SOS Thrift Shop where we loved to donate items and shop (we still do!), we’ve seen how SOS provides the kind of help that communities need in order to flourish. That’s important to us and that’s why we continue to support SOS.”

For nearly 55 years, SOS has strived to meet the needs of residents of District 69. We value the trust that contributors like Nancy and Kevin have in us, knowing we will continue to invest their donations in people – supporting their mental health, enhancing their quality of life, and improving their financial stability.

As we look ahead to what 2023 will hold, our message to the community is one of renewed hope. Hope that we will be kinder to one another. That we will discover new ways to make a difference. And that we will reaffirm our commitment to strengthen the social safety net for those in need now and in the future.

With grateful hearts,

Susanna Newton
SOS Executive Director
P.S. For more on how your support makes a difference in our community, visit our website at:
Nov. 25 SOS Insights – 54 years of Creating Magic for Local Residents

Nov. 25 SOS Insights – 54 years of Creating Magic for Local Residents


For many people in the mind-Island area, the program that immediately springs to mind when asked about Society of Organized Services is our Caring for Community at Christmas program.

The program ensures that local children and youth have a special gift waiting under the tree for them on Christmas morning, and families and individuals can enjoy food that is important to them over the holidays. And like many SOS programs, our Christmas program began small.

The first Christmas “hamper fund” was held in December 1969 and raised approximately $475 in cash donations, $200 of that in collection jars in local businesses. It is estimated that well over $100 in food, candy, hazelnuts, and walnuts was also donated, bringing a bit of Christmas magic into households throughout our district.

The second year, SOS raised $613 for the Christmas hamper fund and by the third year, $1,000 was raised by area residents.

That may not seem like a lot of money, but the impact on individuals and the community as a whole was much more significant. Take June for instance (her name has been changed to protect her identity).

When she was a child, there was very little food available in her home at Christmas. “Every day I saw worry on my mom’s face,” she said. “She‘d have a pot on the stove with potatoes and a few carrots, and one Christmas we had potato soup for dinner. That was it. No one should have to eat like that on Christmas.”

June’s mother told her and her two brothers not to put their stockings out one Christmas in case Santa didn’t make it. June had brighter memories though when her mom accessed the SOS Christmas program. June would ask for simple things such as a baby doll, skipping rope, or a colouring book. ”I didn’t need much. I was so thankful to have a couple of things under the tree; otherwise, we literally wouldn’t have had anything.”

By 1973, as needs continued to grow, the program also evolved. Instead of hampers, SOS provided gift certificates for groceries in addition to toys for children and youth. That year sixty-two local families received the dignity of shopping for their own special foods that were meaningful to them over the holidays.

Fast forward to Christmas 2021. 

Despite two years of a devasting pandemic, last year our community continued its caring with cash donations of $205,000 for grocery gift cards and hundreds of toys for local children and youth. Thanks to individual supporters, local businesses, groups, and sponsors like the Tigh-Na-Mara Toy Drive Breakfast, last year the lives of 869 adults and 952 children and youth in our community were positively impacted by an outpouring of generosity.

This year marks a special passage of time when we honour the last 54 years of meeting the needs of local individuals and families. Our collective caring will be demonstrated once again during the 2022 Caring for Community at Christmas campaign with its power to change lives today and bring hope for a better tomorrow. Now that’s the real magic of Christmas!

With our grateful hearts,

Susanna Newton
SOS Executive Director
P.S. For more on how your support makes a difference in our community, visit our website at: 
Sept. 30 SOS Insights – Free Learning Series Announcement

Sept. 30 SOS Insights – Free Learning Series Announcement

We have a very generous community. 

We have known that for years – in fact for more than five decades/ And during these past three years of challenges brought on by the pandemic and rising inflation, our supporters have stepped up in ways that are truly humbling.

From cash donations, to holding fundraising events for us, to volunteering with meal delivery and program assistance, our supporters have been there for us every step of the way. For that, we will be eternally grateful.

So as a way of giving back to our community, we are developing a series of free learning seminars that will inform and engage residents on topics that are most meaningful to our community, in the immediate and long-term.

You see, the pandemic revealed a lot of vulnerability in our area. It has already changed many things about the way we live and work.

It revealed cracks in our infrastructure and a warning about what will be needed in the coming years in order to provide adequate services to all those in need. It also reinforced the necessity of sustaining a strong social safety net for residents if and when they need our collective caring.

The SOS Learning Series is our offering of useful information about relevant topics to help rebuild and renew a community that is great for everyone.

For example, we are planning a seminar in the new year on mental health and resilience. We know that many in our community are still struggling under the weight of the past three years of isolation, uncertainty, and change.  What else can we do as a community to support the mental health of our residents?

We also know that children and youth have paid a heavy price for school disruption, and many are anxious about their future. Research shows that having equitable access to healthy recreation opportunities is extremely important for the emotional, physical, and social well-being for kids of all ages. What else can we do to enrich the quality of life for kids in our community? 

And as we look at what financial resources will be required to address the emerging needs of our community, we must also provide a variety of options for donors to share their love and support for their community.  The SOS Legacy Stewards program will host free learning seminars in the spring and fall on the topic of legacy giving, explaining how you can save money on taxes while supporting SOS.  Just think what else you could do to improve the financial stability, quality of life and mental health of residents now and in the future.

So, stay tuned. We have a lot in store over the coming months. It will be a great way for you to let your caring shine!

With our grateful hearts,

Susanna Newton
SOS Executive Director

Guest Insights – Ruth Bieber

“SOS, A True Lifeline”

By Ruth Bieber, Oceanside Better At Home client

When I first moved to the area, and having had some previous experience with a Better at Home program, I wasted no time contacting the coordinator of Oceanside Better At Home (OBAH) at SOS, Jolene, to introduce myself. As a senior who has been blind since age six, shopping is the bane of my existence, but we all need to eat, right?

That was the first need Jolene responded to, by giving my grocery list to one of the fabulous OBAH volunteers. The system works great, in my experience, especially now that we all have cell phones in case of a food item substitution request. Once shopping is complete, the groceries are brought right to my home, which I really appreciate. After all, next to shopping, simply getting around without sight is a challenge in a new community.

Speaking of moving to a new community, and no doubt one of the most beautiful places on the planet, it brings company, lots of company. Folk’s love coming to the Island! Initially I wasn’t always aware of all of the many beautiful locations to take my guests, but fortunately another OBAH volunteer who calls me regularly with the Friendly Visiting program, knew about many lovely places to visit. Recently my visitors and I took in Cathedral Grove, plus I learned about some wonderful waterfalls in the area as well. I learn so much from every conversation I have with this volunteer, who is so kind and attentive.

There’s more! Jolene was able to connect me with a housekeeping company, of which I have taken full advantage. As a blind person I feel so much safer when I know a second set of eyes come into my living space to check for things like mould, insects and the like. Such a wonderful and reassuring support!

And, turns out there’s even more support available than what I had originally understood! During a recent conversation with Lissa, SOS Communications Manager, I learned the programs are wide and varied, including some transportation to appointments (on hold right now due to the pandemic) and the like. I might very well take advantage of that.

The programs seem to be client led, which I really appreciate. In other words, the people needing the support ultimately decide what supports get put in place. How progressive is that? Not only are there supports for individuals, but SOS also offers programs that provide social interaction for seniors, including newcomers. I suspect people develop friendships out of these programs that are lifelong. Such a wonderful response to potential isolation and loneliness. Some of the group gatherings include speakers, so these events can be educational as well.

In closing, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the friendliness of all staff members, who are always, kind, patient and ever knowledgeable. I’m so grateful for each and everyone of them. Thank you, Oceanside Better at Home, and SOS; a true lifeline.

Ruth Bieber, SOS Oceanside Better At Home client

Guest Insights – Al Simpson

“How SOS saved my life”


Guest Blog By Al Simpson, SOS Program Participant

I had not put away money for the day when I had a heart attack. Everything came to a halt that day. No, I would not be throwing around sheets of plywood anymore or doing this, that or the other.

During that time, I learned that if I walked, that would really help my chest expand and get me back to normal. I would walk 4 or 5 km a day. I was staying at a friend’s house. When she moved back to the mainland, it was very, very difficult to find a place to live. I wound up being 64 years old, with 2 weeks left before I hit the streets.

I was soon to be homeless when I was put in touch with SOS. With the support of a couple of programs, one of them headed by a very capable employee named Sarah, I was able to find a place to live. I was helped with rent and food security. They helped get me back on my feet again.

Until then, I hated everyone and everything. You couldn’t say two words to me I would tell you to bugger right off. Sarah said to me Al, you really have to decide to be a little more gentle to people because they are going to start to react to you in a negative way and no one will want to listen to what you have to say. It became something to really think about. And then I got some help from Oceanside Mental Health.

Now, every time I go to SOS, if I see Greta, the Homeless Prevention Program Coordinator, I ask her how many people she’s housed, and she’ll give me a number, and I’m just delighted.

A lot of people when they get to SOS, they’ve already been put through the wringer. And they know if this place doesn’t work, I’m done. I’m cooked. Which was my situation.

If SOS has drives to help with toys or money or whatever, I will try my best to give a little of what I’ve got. We appreciate this place so much. SOS has many programs, even help filing Income Taxes. They support kids, adults and seniors at Christmas.

I’m getting used to the fact that I have the things I need. Most of my life has not been that way. I started to realize I was a plus not a minus…well maybe you don’t think you deserve it, but you do.

I’m still here 6 years later, doing really well. I thank SOS for all they have done over the years for me.

If you need help, I urge you to call SOS and make an appointment with one of the very capable people there.

Al Simpson
SOS Program Participant