The South Okanagan Women in Need Society is running its annual Share the Spirit of Giving campaign with the help of a special volunteer.
The campaign runs from November to the end of December and encourages the community to give to the society by sponsoring a family in need, donating unwrapped, new gifts for children and teens or building a backpack of items for a homeless person.
Eleanor, who wishes to not use her last name, has been helping organize the donated gift items for this campaign for five years. But her involvement with SOWINS began years before when she found herself entering the doors of the society in 2002 as a woman in need.
“Originally, I had no idea SOWINS existed. In these situations, you can feel isolated, so it’s hard to navigate who to trust,” said Eleanor.
This quickly changed when Eleanor reached out to the society, accessing their transition house and taking the necessary steps to turn her life, and her daughters’ lives, around. Eleanor said the society gave her the strength to do the work she needed to do to get back on her feet.
“My children were my main focus. My girls really developed a character thanks to these services,” said Eleanor. “I know they became stronger women, and they gained independence.”
Approximately 150 women, youth and children will be attending the society’s Christmas party on Dec. 17 where the donated gifts will be distributed. Youth will also be able to “shop” from the free items to find a gift for mom this holiday season.
Marni Adams, SOWINS fund development advisor, said moms will also have a chance to select gifts for their children after the Christmas party. She noted that the holidays can be a particularly hard time for their clients as children will be off from school, so they may need to make new work arrangements, adjust meal schedules and increase their spending.
Adams said the community has shown tremendous generosity year after year for this campaign, noting that they have also seen an increase in the need for it.
“There’ll be hundreds of women, youth and children helped over this holiday season because of the generous support from the public and companies,” said Adams. “We have 100 sponsored families receiving hampers when last year it was around 70.”
“I’ve had several companies step forward to sponsor this year, and they’ve shared their stories with me about when they needed help or when they were a child and their mom left,” said Adams. “So that’s been an interesting connection for me as well because I’ve started to establish these relationships and hear their stories. So a sponsor’s connectedness to this organization and helping these women because of their own experiences is pretty cool.”
SOWINS also offers a mobile outreach program to help homeless women, who will also benefit from the Share the Spirit of Giving campaign with backpacks filled with essential items and a Christmas gift.
“In 1981, that’s how SOWINS began, as a transition house for women fleeing violent situations. Now, our services have grown and become much more,” said Adams. “Now we offer a multitude of programs and services.”
For women considering accessing SOWINS and its services, Eleanor said you need to take it one step at a time.
“There’s no guideline on how to do this. I’m not a taker, so wrapping my mind around not taking, but asking, is what helped me,” said Eleanor. “So that extension of your hand is the biggest step. Because when you do it, you’re still unsure. But you do know that you’re not in a bad place and you don’t have to go back.”
Donations for the Share the Spirit campaign can be made online at www.sowins.com until the end of December. While the deadline has passed to sign up as a sponsor family, Adams said people can reach out to the society to be put on next year’s list by calling the office at 250-493-4366.
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