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

Guest Insights – Nirm Blatchford

Filling my Heart by Helping Kids Thrive

Guest Blog By Nirm Blatchford 

Do you know that game, Two Truths and a Lie? I love to throw in – “I became an aunt at the age of eight.” People always think that’s the lie – and are surprised to find out it’s the truth. For as long as I can remember, there have always been babies, toddlers, kids, or teenagers in my life. Fast forward many decades later and my ten nephews and nieces have gone on to marry and have their own kids, making me a great-aunt to 11 great-nephews and great-nieces.

That’s probably why I spent most of my career working for children’s non-profits. When my husband and I moved to Nanoose Bay from Burnaby in 2020 and I couldn’t see my great-nephews and great-nieces for almost 2 years because of COVID, I was drawn to the Child, Youth and Family programs at SOS for volunteer work.

I got involved with TIC TAC, a program for kids aged newborn to 5, where the staff and volunteers play with the kids in the playroom while their parents enjoy a cup of coffee in the adjoining room. But more importantly, it gives the kids an opportunity to build social and emotional skills.

Coming out of COVID isolation, this program was more important than ever. We now had a new generation of children who had interacted only with their immediate family. Stepping into the centre for the first time was a huge step, not just for the kids, but their parents as well. Most of the kids hadn’t had the opportunity to meet other kids their own age.

It took extra time to earn the trust of the kids. My approach was to start by just being there near a child. If a child was at the table doing a puzzle, I sat at the table and did my own puzzle, I would make conversation with the parent first and then slowly ask the child their name or age.

Gradually as the weeks went on, we started to see a transition in the kids. At first it was allowing their parents to leave the room, then it was playing next to other kids, and now many weeks into the program, the kids are interacting with each other at playtime, and they hardly look for their parents, knowing that they are close by.

I remember one little girl who barely said anything her first few weeks. She enjoyed doing puzzles so she and I would start out at the puzzle table. Then we would move around the room playing with the toys. She usually came with her mom but one week she came in with her dad and she wouldn’t let him leave the playroom.

I sat with her and her dad for a while and then I casually asked her if she would make me tea, she thought about it for a few seconds, then she grabbed my hand and walked me to our pretend kitchen where she proceeded to not only make me tea, but ensured I got some pretend fruit and vegetables. When it came time for circle time, she insisted I sit next to her on the carpet.

At the end of playtime, just as the kids were getting on their shoes to leave, her dad made a point of seeking me out and said, “thank you, she’s very comfortable with you and she trusts you.”’ Well my heart grew 10 times its normal size that day. So yes, the kids are learning very valuable life skills, but I think I’m the one who’s getting the most out of the program because when a kid says, “Nirm come play with me,” my heart explodes every time, and I can’t wait to return the following week.

I am so pleased to now be working with SOS as a casual/on-call employee for their Child, Youth and Family programs. When I initially took on the volunteer role, I had no intention of it becoming a job as I had retired from jobs where I had raised funds for children’s programs on the mainland. But once I started volunteering with SOS, I realized  that I wanted to work directly with the kids and not be behind the scenes. I am so looking forward to this new chapter in my life and I want to thank SOS for giving me the opportunity to continue to make a difference in my community.

Nirm Blatchford
TIC TAC Volunteer/Casual Employee

May 27 SOS Insights

We have all seen the horrific images of destruction and suffering on the lives of the Ukrainian people over these past several weeks. Moved by their courage, many of us have offered to send help in the ways that we can. That is what caring citizens of the world do during times of need.

And during these past two years of our own disruption and challenges brought on by the pandemic, many of us have been motivated to help our neighbors in the many ways that we can. That is what a caring community does during times of need.

As much as we would like it to be otherwise, we are still surrounded by great need. Unprecedented high fuel costs, grocery bills that make it even more challenging to put healthy food on the table and a housing crisis that is pulling more individuals and families further into poverty. All these things prolong the uncertainly and threaten community stability.

I know I am not telling you anything that you don’t already know. But sometimes we can get so used to hearing about it that it becomes background noise. That is unless you are someone who is suffering. Then that is the only noise you hear.

That is why it is even more important that we strengthen the social safety net that vulnerable residents count on during times of need. The safety net that SOS has provided for the past 54 years. And the safety net that has also become more vulnerable as we are asked to do more with much less.

But we believe that it is exactly at times like this when we are tested the most. The time when community gets to show what it stands for. When instead of turning off the news and the statistics, we let that fuel our passion for doing good. When we turn our feelings into action.

Afterall, it’s always been the passion of caring people that leads to positive change. That, in fact, is the origin of the SOS story. Please, let’s not take it for granted. Thank you for caring.

With our grateful hearts,

Susanna Newton

Executive Director

P.S. If you would like to turn your feelings into immediate action, click on the link below to learn more about how your actions make an impact.

April 28 SOS Insights


For 54 years, SOS has been the social safety net for our community. From our humble beginnings establishing our first modest Thrift Shop in Parksville, we were able to make a considerable impact in our community. Working with an army of dedicated volunteers, staff began to develop

programs and services for low-income and other vulnerable residents in the Parksville Qualicum Beach region.

Over the decades we have been able to fund the majority of our work through Thrift Shop revenues. Of course, that all changed when the pandemic hit, and we needed to adapt.

The pandemic has not only taken a heavy toll on residents of our community, it has also strained our resources. SOS Operation Renewal is our 2022 campaign to raise stable funding so that we are better equipped to deal with the challenges of the future.

Over the next eight months, you will hear a lot more about this important campaign and the impact your support is having on meeting the needs of local residents.

You will learn about how SOS programs and services ensure that residents of all ages have access and supports for strengthening their resilience and mental health.

You will hear from vulnerable seniors about why SOS programs and services help them to age in place comfortably.

You will also learn more about why investing in SOS programs that help improve the financial stability of low-income adults and families is good for our community.

Hopefully you will learn more about why your contribution matters.

You see as much as we might not want to admit it, the pandemic caused many things to change in our community.  And with the rising cost of basic necessities like food, housing and gas, more residents who were already at risk of poverty are being pulled further away from financial security.  That means that a strong social safety net for vulnerable residents is more important that ever.  And we simply must be better prepared for what is yet to come!

Throughout the year, you will be asked to support SOS Operation Renewal with a cash donation of whatever size – every dollar counts!

You will be encouraged to donate other assets such as stocks and securities or include SOS in your estate planning through our SOS Legacy Stewards program.

We will ask that you or your group host a community fundraiser for us through our SOS Groups for Good program.

If you own a business, we will invite you to become a partner in our SOS Biz for Good program.

And we also encourage you to join our monthly giving program Grateful Hearts Circle so that we can count on sustainable funding to deliver our programs every month of the year.

We believe it’s time to turn the corner with a vision of renewal and growth for our community.
SOS Operation Renewal represents that vision.

By looking forward and working together, we can bring much needed optimism and hope for a future that includes a social safety net strong enough to weather any storm.

To make a donation or learn more about the campaign, click here 

With our grateful hearts,

Susanna Newton

Executive Director

P.S. Our future starts with what we plant today.  Let’s get planting!

SOS Insights – Celebrating Community Generosity




We’ve come a long way thanks to you!

It’s hard to believe that it was over two years ago when everything changed because of the pandemic. Business closures, staff lay-offs, remote work, and virtual learning for school children forced us to adapt under ever-changing circumstances. Having endured five pandemic waves, I believe that we, as a community, have demonstrated our true spirit of generosity at every step of the way. For that, we thank you!

When our treasured Thrift Shop was forced to close for three months in March of 2020, we lost significant revenue that would normally provide the majority of funds for programs our community relies on. And like other organizations, we had to lay off staff and suspend some of our programs due to COVID restrictions.

Because no one knew at that time what would be in store over the next two years, we realized that in order to stay on solid financial ground, that we would need to look beyond our reliance on Thrift Shop funds to support the important programs and services we provide. Thus began a new phase in our 54-year history.


Parksville Pharmasave staff holding grateful hearts


Operating with a skeleton staff, in April 2020 we put out our own S.O.S. for donations. Our SOS Grateful Hearts campaign was launched to ensure we could continue delivering essential services to our community’s most vulnerable, such as emergency assistance for food and medicine, helping seniors with their groceries, and delivering meals through our Meals on Wheels program.

Thanks to donor funding, we were also able to continue supporting homeless individuals with supplies and housing emergency assistance as well as connecting residents with local, professional counsellors online, and advocating for residents so they would receive the government benefits they were entitled to.

When things began to open up a bit in the fall of 2020, we launched the SOS Project Restart campaign aimed at providing funding to help modify and adapt SOS Child, Youth & Family programs that we knew were essential for the mental wellbeing of kids and their families. Once again, our community answered our call for help.

As we began to forecast our needs for the 2021 year, we anticipated that Thrift Shop revenues would not return to pre-pandemic levels until at least early 2022. So, trusting that we could count on the generosity of individuals, groups, and our business community to protect the social safety net that SOS provides, we launched the SOS Project Rebuild campaign which has now come to an end. But before I provide you with the results, I’d just like to recap why this campaign was so important to our community.

You see, when we launched the SOS Project Rebuild campaign in the spring 2021, we felt strongly that we were at a critical point in our history. That we needed to move beyond addressing immediate needs, although we knew there would still be many.

We felt it was time to rebuild our capacity so that we could provide opportunities to help more kids grow into successful adults, assist more seniors to age in place comfortably and ensure more residents would have a safe place to lay their heads at night. The campaign rally cry was to “reach more and do more” for local residents.


  SOS Family Night Program participants enjoy an activity


But big ambitions require big financial targets so SOS Project Rebuild set out to raise $1 Million by the end of March 2022. And to achieve that we knew we would need to mobilize the time, talent, and treasure of our entire community.

Once again, our community didn’t disappoint. As of March 31, 2022, we raised $953,336! Even though we didn’t quite make it to $1 Million, we are ecstatic about this important fundraising milestone and have so many to thank for this achievement.

First, we want to thank our SOS Project Rebuild campaign team of Board Members and community advocates who helped guide the vision of the campaign and spread the word throughout the community.

Thank you to the thousands of individual donors who made thoughtful gifts from $10 – $100,000. Every donation matters and we would not have raised the amount we did without all of you.

We also want to thank our SOS Biz for Good partners who made financial donations of $1,000 or more to become part of this inaugural corporate giving program.

We received many contributions in other forms, such as bequests, stocks and securities, in-honor, and tribute donations, as well as proceeds from third-party community events.

And lastly, I want to personally thank our staff and volunteers who have kept our organization running during these challenging times.

Ensuring that a community social safety net remains strong is a group effort. It requires people, funding, and vision. As we enter another new chapter of growth and renewal, I hope we can continue to count on your support. You are what fuels our mission. Thank you!

With our grateful hearts,

Susanna Newton
Executive Director