Optimism can exist in caring communities
In my career as a Community Psychologist, I had the opportunity to observe and be part of creative, collaborative, community initiatives in small towns in British Columbia and around the world, for example Brazil, Australia, Trinidad and Tobago and Finland. In Victoria, I worked with many non-profits that were dedicated to an inclusive community. The passion and the kindness with which staff and volunteers did this was humbling.
I fell in love with the idea of community, true community, where there is a commitment to the “other” and a sense of social justice. Basically, it is an extension of what most of us have experienced in our neighbourhoods: looking out for the elderly person down the street, mentoring a youth in using tools, offering to babysit or walk a dog to relieve the stress of daily living, and making meals for those not well or grieving.
When I moved to Qualicum Beach in 2009, I was invited to be part of a small group that was attempting to create greater collaboration and cohesion in Qualicum in order to create a healthy community. This led to an invitation to volunteer as a Board member for SOS.
My experiences in other countries made it easy for me to recognize the value of SOS and in particular the potential of its scope and scale. It encapsulates everything that I saw as valuable in other countries starting with the resolute purpose of making life better for those who need some support. When your passion and your work match the result is magic.
At the time I was also a committee member for the Vancouver Foundation, an organization founded by one woman in 1943 who had saved $1,000 from her secretarial job and had a vision to help the homeless women of Vancouver break the circle of poverty. She impressed philanthropists who joined her to expand her vision. The Vancouver Foundation has since distributed over a billion dollars to charities and community projects in British Columbia.
For me, the fact that SOS was started by 3 women who saw a need, and, with a contribution of $25 each, created, over fifty years ago, a now thriving organization paralleled the origins of the Vancouver Foundation. It is a unique combination of optimism and dedication to community. The histories and the legacies of these two organizations are inspiring. It reminds me of the famous Margaret Mead quote: “A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
Other agencies in town who are also engaged in helping others, will agree with me that the best part of working in a community organization is being surrounded by staff and volunteers who are such a positive force in our community and who each day bring a sense of fun, and yet great humanity to their work. I continue to learn so much from them.
Dr. Jennifer Mullett
SOS Board Chair
Originally from Winnipeg, my career in the hotel industry has provided amazing opportunities for my family and I to work and live in many countries including Malaysia, Singapore, Egypt, United States and Canada. While we have enjoyed all the experiences of living abroad for 15+ years, and would not trade those years in for anything, our eyes have been fully opened to realize how fortunate we are to live back in Canada.
My family and I moved to Parksville from Chicago in 2007 with the exciting opportunity to manage Tigh-Na-Mara Seaside Spa Resort. We had stayed here as guests in 1995 when living in Malaysia and couldn’t resist the opportunity to return, but this time call it home.
Our timing was a bit unfortunate as the recession hit the following year and running any business was more challenging than in the past. Tigh-Na-Mara experienced one of its most devastating financial years in 2008 and we realized as a business, who had always supported our community, that we needed to step up and do something special.
We realized many more families were struggling and having challenges meeting their monthly bills, retirees had lost significant amounts of their investment savings and with the Christmas holidays around the corner, we were in a position to create something that would help relieve a bit of pressure from the season and help those who were struggling have something under the tree on Christmas morning. The Tigh-Na-Mara Toy Drive Breakfast was born.
Now that we had the idea, we needed to find an organization that would be able to distribute what we hoped to collect. That is when I was introduced to the District 69 Society of Organized Services (SOS). Currently in our 13 years of hosting the annual Toy Drive, our relationship has continued to grow beyond one of just distribution.
Our understanding of the services SOS provides our community, and their continual effort to create new programs and services to fill voids other organizations and government programs don’t address, is incredible. As a business which employs over 300 people, I know firsthand of many of our team members who have been supported in a variety of ways through the programs run by SOS.
We are so fortunate to have an organization like SOS in our community and even though personally, neither my family or I have needed access to their programs, we know many community members and friends who have needed their support. With 30+ programs helping our community, Tigh-Na-Mara will continue it’s support where we can as their existence benefits us all.
Thank you to all the staff and volunteers at Society of Organized Services for what you do and continually supporting all who need assistance in our community!
Tigh-Na-Mara Seaside Spa Resort & Conference Centre
During this special season when we wrap up a month of thanksgiving to make way for a time of remembrance, many of us pause to reflect on the things that matter most.
The people who make our lives better today. The ones who came before and have paved the way. The young ones who will take up the torch to ensure our community is stronger in the years to come.
At SOS, we pause to do the same.
We remember with gratitude the small but mighty group of concerned citizens, who in 1968 began the grassroots movement that has become the SOS of today.
We are grateful for the volunteers, Thrift Shop supporters and financial donors who keep our many programs and services going, especially during these challenging times.
And we see hope in the determination of the next generation of leaders who will ensure that our 53-year legacy of meeting local needs continues.
That is why, a few weeks ago, our entire Board of Directors participated in a thank-a-thon, when they telephoned supporters to extend gratitude. Many who we contacted were genuinely surprised by the call and very appreciative. Hopefully we were able to connect with you.
Many are current or past volunteers, and several expressed their gratitude right back to us saying how much they have benefitted from programs like Meals on Wheels, Counselling Referral, and Income Tax services to name just a few. And quite a few told us they look forward to seeing their friends again when we can resume our popular Seniors Connecting program in person.
We spoke to people who remembered when we first started in 1968. They said they have been strong supporters of the Thrift Shop ever since. In fact, one supporter told us that the Thrift Shop really helped at a time of their own personal need. And we were heartened to be told how much our call of thanks meant to a supporter who is currently undergoing cancer treatment.
Some told us they support SOS because their donation stays in the community helping local residents of all ages when they need assistance. And many told us they support our Caring for Community at Christmas program every year and are looking forward to volunteering, buying toys during the toy drive and donating cash for grocery gift cards to make the holidays a little merrier for residents in need.
Some supporters even told us they are so grateful for what SOS means to our community that they have made provisions for SOS in their will. Now that is really paying it forward!
But for the most part, you told us that what we do is important for residents in School District 69. That without our programs and services, many would go without the support they need, when they need it the most.
In fact, because of the donations we have received to our Project Rebuild campaign, we have delivered nearly 9,000 Meals on Wheels to seniors and other residents who have found it challenging to prepare nutritious food for themselves over the past six months.
Your support has also enabled us to stay connected by phone with hundreds of local seniors to make sure their needs are being met.
And when it comes to our community’s young ones, funds to Project Rebuilt have enabled hundreds of children and youth to participate in our free kids’ programs. Campaign donations since April have also meant that more than 100 moms, dads and caregivers could take a break and connect with other adults over a snack and coffee while their children play – a much needed respite and mental health break for families.
On behalf of the entire Board of Directors and staff of SOS, please know that you are important to us. Your time, talent and treasure are what fuels our efforts. We simply could not do what we do for our community without you!
With our grateful hearts,
Society of Organized Services
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
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.
Society of Organized Services