Guest Insights – Sept. 24

Volunteer and Donor Elaine De Rooy

Elaine De Rooy

I have lived in Qualicum Beach since 1981, having moved here, after attending college in Nanaimo. I lived with my parents, until my marriage in 1983. My husband and I were lucky to have the financial resources to build a small home in Qualicum Beach. While we were raising our two very active boys, my husband suffered a cardiac arrest and spent the ensuing five years battling his heart failure. Which he eventually succumbed to and passed away in 2010.

During his five-year battle, I was lucky enough to have a strong support network of friends, one of whom introduced me to a belly dance class sponsored by SOS. I was reluctant at first, because I was so busy working, taking care of my children, and my husband, and it seemed impossible to get away for even an hour. But then I realized it gave me a chance to be “normal,” if only for an hour per week. It also gave me an outlet, for all my pent-up emotions.

I went from being a resistant student to becoming a dedicated student, in a heartbeat. When our teacher went on a sabbatical, I stepped in and became the temporary teacher. Unfortunately, the program was cancelled, but fortunately, it gave me the impetus to open up a belly dance studio of my own.

I opened my studio in 2012 and it is still operating today, bigger and better than ever. One of my primary focuses has been on improving the mental health of my students through dance. You could say I have “taken the torch” from the SOS program, and carried on their good work. I owe my new path, in part to the SOS belly dance program. And I am forever grateful that they sponsored it, and that my friend never gave up.

Going to the belly dance classes was my main introduction to the work of SOS. Slowly, I became knowledgeable about the other services they offered. And when my time and finances became freer, I started donating, and volunteering for them.

Firstly, donating funds to the Christmas Program, making sure people in need did not go without at Christmas. My husband and I were very lucky in having good stable jobs, and sharing some of that at Christmas became important to us.  Not too long ago, I switched from a once a year donation, to preauthorized monthly donations.  What a great idea, I don’t miss the money, and it frees up my time to do other things.

Secondly, donating time to the Christmas Program, helping with the Angel Tree drop-offs and pick-ups. My children have fond memories of picking up the gifts. One time, there were so many gifts, I told one of them he might have to walk home, if there wasn’t any room left in the vehicle for him! Another time, a toy kept making farm animal sounds, every time we went over a bump, all the way to the SOS. It gave us a good laugh.

In closing, to me SOS is a vital “safety net” for our Oceanside community. The organization steps in to provide help to the vulnerable, the elderly and the unfortunate. It certainly helped me in my time of need.  I am profoundly grateful, that I have the ability to provide time and funds to accomplish those goals.

Elaine De Rooy
Belly Laughs Navel Academy

www.sosprojectrebuild.com

 

SOS Insights – June 7

We know the past several months have been particularly challenging for many seniors in our community.  Cut off from family and friends when they needed the comfort and reassurance the most, many continue to struggle with the anxiety caused by social isolation.

Last March when COVID-19 forced a three-month shut-down of our Thrift Shop and a halt to many of our programs and services, we recognized that seniors were going to be one of the hardest hit by these disruptions. Especially low-income seniors who have difficulty paying for even the basics.

Did you know that 11% of seniors are considered low-income?

Many rely on our Thrift Shop for things like clothing, household items and small gifts.  Many others look forward to catching up with friends and enjoying meals together while attending SOS programs like Seniors Connecting.  In some cases, these are the only social activities they have.

But because these options were no longer available during the pandemic, we knew we had to reach out in different ways.  And that is exactly what we did.

We began by checking in with clients on a regular basis to ensure their needs were being met. In some cases that was by providing grocery shopping or picking up their medications.

In other cases, our Seniors Advocacy Services team was able to continue offering services by assisting seniors who were in need of further individualized supports. Through this program, we provide emergency vouchers for things like food and medicine, advocacy support, and information and referrals to services offered through SOS such as counselling referrals, as well as supports available through other service providers in the district.

Here’s what one of our Seniors Advocacy Services client had to say:

“The coordinator of this program has a broad knowledge of government programs and forms, and reduced my worries as she listened, encouraged and aided me. She is informed on the challenges of seniors, she explains so we can understand. SOS provided me vouchers for gas and groceries in a subtle way. I was also cheered on with a little laughter, ending on a positive note.”

Thanks to community support, our popular Meals on Wheels program has also been able to continue.  Many seniors and other adults who are unable to cook for themselves, benefit from the hot, nutritious meals delivered by our dedicated volunteers.

Like everyone else, we look forward to the time when we can all gather again. We look forward to the restart of our Seniors Connecting program, and more of the services available through our Oceanside Better at Home program that had to be halted during the pandemic.

But most of all, we look to what we can still do to reach more and do more for seniors in our region. With the number of seniors aged 75+ expected to almost double in District 69 over the next 20 years, we have much still to do as we play catch up from the financial impact caused by the pandemic.

Because we fund most of our programs through Thrift Shop revenue, and do not expect to reach the pre-pandemic income levels until at least 2022,  we are asking our community to support our $1 Million SOS Project Rebuild Campaign.

For more information on how we will invest in supporting seniors as well as helping kids thrive and reducing poverty, please visit our campaign website at sosprojectrebuild.com.

I hope you enjoy this wonderful month of June as we look forward to the easing of restrictions and a summer that looks a bit more like what we have been longing for.  And in the meantime, let’s work together to rebuild our community, for our children, for our grandchildren and for all those who will turn to us in need, now and in the future.

Warmest regards,

Susanna Newton
Executive Director
Society of Organized Services

 

www.sosprojectrebuild.com

 

SOS Insights – May 7

Did you know that District 69 reports higher unemployment than other BC regions?

That single parent families in our region have lower incomes than other BC regions?

That when it comes to housing, nearly half of renters in our region spend more than 30% of their income on rent and utilities — that is if they can even find housing!

Your SOS has known for years that the lack of affordable housing is one of the main reasons that people fall into poverty, or even worse, homelessness.  And once there, it is often difficult to find a way out.

That is one of the reasons your SOS has been providing emergency financial assistance and advocacy to low-income residents for so many years.

Over the past 14 months, we have seen the devastation this pandemic has had on the lives of  residents.  People who have lost their jobs, and those with minimum wage jobs, have all struggled to afford the high costs of housing.

So when we were approached to be the service provider to use revenues collected from Online Accommodations Platforms (OAPs) to help struggling local workers in the service and tourism industry, we knew what a difference it would make.

By providing some rent relief to residents in the form of emergency housing subsidies, workers would be able to breathe a little easier knowing they could provide for their families.  If you would like to learn more about this important community partnership, click here.

Yes, the lack of affordable housing is one of the main reasons we have so much poverty in our area.  In fact, 16% of local residents aged 18 – 64 are considered low-income.  And that number will only grow once the government subsidies that have been a life-line for so many people, eventually end.  That’s when we will fully realize the devastation this past year has caused.

But there is a segment of our population that has had to carry one of the biggest loads over the past 14 months.  That is women.  And in particular working moms, especially single moms.

With Mother’s Day just a couple of days away, I wanted to highlight how COVID-19 has impacted their lives and honour the sacrifices they continue to make during these challenging times.

When schools were closed and families had to adapt to virtual learning, it was usually the moms who had to juggle working from home while learning how to home-school their children.

Others had to leave the workforce altogether to care for their children, with no certainty of ever returning to a job again.

And for families with elderly parents, it was more often the woman who carried the responsibility for ensuring their loved ones were cared for.  And they did all this while dealing with their own stressors and exhaustion.

That’s why your SOS has always made a commitment to supporting families experiencing hardship.  Even though current restrictions don’t allow us to resume our Child, Youth and Family Programs in person, we are still here for them.

We’ve been checking in with families and providing assistance and additional resources when needed.  And we’ve been delivering home-cooked meals, snacks and activities to children, youth and families — a welcome relief to busy and tired moms.

Experts are already seeing that the disruption caused by the pandemic in schools, pre-schools and daycares will have a negative effect and could delay a child’s language and social skills, not to mention the impact on their mental health.

Experts also predict that it will take years for women to make up the ground they have lost by leaving the workforce in terms of pay equity and opportunities for advancement and growth.

The aftermath of this pandemic, that we are not out of yet, will be felt for years.

So, on this Friday before Mother’s Day, I ask you to join me in honouring the women in your life who have made a difference during the most challenging of times in our lives.  Let them know that what they do matters.  That they matter.

Then let’s work alongside them to rebuild our community, for our children, for our grandchildren and for all those who will turn to us in need, now and in the future.

Warmest regards,

Susanna Newton
Executive Director
Society of Organized Services

250-248-2093 | www.sosd69.com

SOS Insights – April 9

If you have lived in our region for a while, you already know how important your SOS Thrift Shop is to our community. Not only is it a place where you can recycle items that are no longer needed, but also a place where you can discover new treasures to take home.  More importantly, it serves as the largest funder of SOS programs and services which low-income residents have relied on for more than 50 years.

Of course that all changed in 2020 when COVID-19 forced a three month shut down of our Thrift Shop and subsequent reduction in revenues due to safety protocol adherence.  And given the ongoing capacity restrictions, we do not expect to see a return to pre-pandemic volumes until at least 2022.  That means less funding available to deliver vital programs and services once the dust settles.

In the meantime, thanks to the generosity of our community, we have been able to continue delivering essential services to residents in need as well as adapt some of our services for children, youth, families and seniors.  We look forward to the time when we can all safely gather once again.

But until then, it is time to rebuild for the future.

You see, the pandemic highlighted several areas of need that will become even more urgent in the coming months and years. Our population will continue to grow, and we will experience a profound greying of our residents.  Housing costs will keep rising as will unemployment rates, mental health issues, and poverty.

In order to do the big things that will be necessary for supporting our community in the future, your SOS must move beyond just addressing immediate needs. We will have to rebuild our capacity.

That will enable us to open up additional opportunities for helping more kids grow into successful adults, assist more seniors to age in place, and ensure more residents have a safe place to lay their head at night.

That is why I am proud to officially announce SOS Project Rebuild with a goal of raising $1 Million over the next twelve months, to reach more and do more for residents in District 69.

Over the next few weeks you will begin to see more news about this important campaign in the paper, your mailbox, and through various social media and promotional outlets.  In the meantime, I encourage you to visit our campaign website at www.sosprojectrebuild.com for more information about our plans.

To help us get the job done, we have assembled a dedicated campaign team of community volunteers who are already rolling up their sleeves and getting to work. They will help us mobilize the time, talent, and treasure of the rest of our community so that collectively we reach our goal.

We are so excited about what we can do together for our community’s future.  I promise to keep you up to date on our progress throughout the coming year.

Warmest regards,

Susanna Newton
Executive Director
Society of Organized Services

250-248-2093 | www.sosd69.com