Society of Organized Services (SOS) reports a successful year despite pandemic challenges

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Society of Organized Services (SOS) has released its annual report, which highlights how the organization responded to pandemic challenges and found new ways to serve the community.

“When the pandemic hit, we could no longer operate in our usual way. Every day, things were changing. We had to close our thrift shop and lay off 80 per cent of our staff. We had to suspend programs that residents have come to rely on,” wrote Susanna Newton, executive director, in the report.

The society’s medical appointment transportation service, men’s and women’s personal growth programs, seniors connecting program and non-medical appointment transportation service had to be put on hold because of pandemic challenges, the report said.

SOS began grocery shopping for seniors and calling senior clients to make sure their basic needs were being met. The society also connected residents with professional counsellors online — 94 referrals in total. Its seniors’ advocacy services shifted to online and over the phone, continuing to provide emergency financial aid for things like food and medicine, helping seniors fill out government forms and working through various concerns. SOS provided 64 vouchers and made 1,500 support calls, in addition to over 1,700 check-in phone calls to seniors.

SOS’s family night, which provided a safe and comfortable place where families can eat dinner and spend quality time together, was switched to deliveries. Activities, such as scavenger hunts and planting succulents in clay pots, were also delivered to homes. Over 150 people participated in Parksville and Qualicum Beach, the report said.

“We began delivering ‘homemade’ food and activities to children, youth and families, since we could no longer host them at SOS. Thank you for standing with us to get through these difficult times. Together we made a positive difference in our community,” Martin Fereday, board chair, wrote in the report.

The Oceanside Better at Home program, which provides non-medical support services, such as housekeeping and yard work to seniors, was put on hold in March 2020 and restarted in a modified way in August. Grocery shopping and delivery were introduced early on in the pandemic — 1,063 grocery trips were made and 164 yard work services were provided.

SOS supported an average of 90 clients a month with its Meals on Wheels program, which nurtures health and independence by helping residents access hot, nutritious meals. The food is prepared at Arrowsmith Lodge and volunteers deliver the meals to program participants three days a week. The menu is prepared under the guidance of a certified dietitian and offered on a 6-week rotation. Over 14,300 meals were delivered through the program in the last year, according to the report.

SOS’s Caring for Community at Christmas program was modified because of pandemic concerns. This year a gift drop-off tent was set up outside and all gifts were wrapped in baskets to minimize contact. Christmas stockings are assembled by local Newcomers’ Clubs and more than 175 were delivered by SOS volunteers to seniors who are isolated. A total of 990 children and youth and 906 adults participated.

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