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,