Island woman deals with challenges of facing Christmas at age 86 with one income

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By Lissa Alexander

Betty said that when her husband was alive, she had it easy.

“He passed away two years ago, so now I have to pay all the bills and everything and it’s just very hard,” she said. “It’s just a juggling act, pay one and the others are left behind.”

Betty (her name has been changed to protect her identity) is 86, and in her younger years she was an SOS volunteer, driving residents to medical appointments. Now on a fixed income, she is accessing the mid-Island’s SOS Caring for Community at Christmas program which will provide her with a grocery store gift card, and she’ll be able to go through the SOS Toy Shop to select gifts for her great-grandchildren.

“I’ve been thinking and thinking and racking my brain, how am I going to get some gifts? What am I going to do here?” she explained. Her grandchildren, who are grown, don’t expect anything, she said, but she really wanted to be able to get something for her three great-grandchildren who she’ll see over the Christmas holidays. That’s when she found out that the SOS Christmas program can help her with both food and gifts.

“I’m just so thankful,” she said. “SOS is so helpful, it’s so good for the community.”

The SOS Christmas program is available to all District 69 residents (Nanoose Bay to Bowser) who need extra support providing gifts for children, and putting food in the cupboards. The program provides a special gift for children and youth so they can find something special under the tree Christmas morning, and families and individuals receive grocery store gift cards, so they can choose food that is important to them over the holidays.

READ MORE: Residents come together to support SOS Caring for Community

Anna and her husband have two children and they’ve been accessing the SOS Christmas program for several years (her name has been changed to protect her identity). Anna’s husband is disabled and can’t work, and her children’s birthdays are both in December, so it’s a difficult month, she said.

“It’s hard to get it all together and keep a smile on their faces even though you can’t afford it,” she said.

Anna remembers all the wonderful gifts she’s been able to find in the SOS Toy Shop over the years, including Little Tikes toys, dollies and barbies. This year, she’s hoping to find some sports equipment since her children are now 12 and 14. A bike would be her dream gift, she said, as that’s something she doesn’t think she’ll ever be able to afford. The grocery store gift card her family received last year enabled them to get all the fixings for Christmas dinner.

“We wouldn’t have had those fixings without it,” she said. “Your program means the world to us.”

SOS wants to raise $200,000 this Christmas to meet the needs of everyone who registers for the program.

So far, the Christmas campaign has raised $176,762. To make a financial donation visit, call 250-248-2093 or drop in with a new, unwrapped gift or financial donation during business hours to the SOS Community Services Centre in Parksville. If you need extra support this Christmas, register for the SOS Christmas program at the SOS Community Services Centre Monday to Friday, 9:15 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and 1:15 p.m. to 2:45 pm until Dec. 22.

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