Douglas Dunn, executive director of SOS Children’s Village BC, is asking the community to donate to the society’s annual gift card drive, which benefits Surrey youth who have aged out of care. (File)

SOS Children’s Village BC collecting gift cards, donations for Surrey’s at-risk youth

Annual gift card drive on until Jan. 7

SOS Children’s Village BC is once again asking the community to give some of Surrey’s most vulnerable youth a helping hand this holiday season.

The registered non-profit organization organizes an annual gift card fundraiser to help support the youth currently attending their Transition to Adulthood program, which assists youth transitioning from foster care to independence and provides stability at a time when at-risk youth are particularily vulnerable.

In a post to Facebook, Village Director Kistie Singh and two youth workers wrote three stories of the many youth that they work with to show how gift cards can make an impact on their lives.

“These three [youth], and the many more in our program, need your help. It hurts our hearts that some youth are struggling this much during the Christmas season, just to afford food, clothing, and personal hygiene products,” the post reads.

The following stories are real, but the names have been changed to protect privacy.

Nolan, a former resident of SOS Children’s Village BC, recently fell into a difficult situation. He had made great steps towards independence, and had recently moved from his Downtown Eastside residence to a place in Surrey. During the move, however, the fire alarm went off in his building, and the sprinklers destroyed his furniture, carpets and bed.

He had no insurance, and without furniture, he was back to square one.

Nolan spoke with his former youth workers at SOS Children’s Village BC, and shared that he felt defeated. They began to work on a plan to move him forward, starting with the basic necessities, including eating full meals.

According to the society, the first thing they did was feed Nolan and give him gift cards so that he could purchase fresh, nutritional food — something he wouldn’t have been able to afford otherwise.

Or take Dana for example, who is 19 years old and has aged out of the foster care system. She’s working hard to graduate high school, to earn employment in her chosen field, and is learning life skills through SOS Children’s Village BC’s Transition to Adulthood program.

But since she has aged out of care, it can be difficult for her to access resources to help support her as she works to create a future for herself. Gift cards for grocery stores, or department stores, would help Dana, and youth like Dana, a great deal.

The last story SOS Children’s Village BC shared this year was of Dakota — who, before she moved out on her own and went to school, relied on weekly gift cards to purchase healthy, nutritional food.

“So many of the homeless youth we work with can couch surf, but everyone wants them to at least pay for groceries,” explained Dunn. “That is why the demand for grocery store gift cards is so high.”

“Cash is always great, we can use it to get the specific items [such as] work boots, groceries, etc. However, many people want to be sure that their donation goes right to the kids, so gift cards are great.”

Dunn also explained that the society doesn’t just “give the cards out.”

“Our youth workers accompany the youth to the grocery or other store, and use the shopping trip as a teaching opportunity,” he said.

Donations last year were up in terms of cash, but down in regards to gift cards, according to Dunn. In 2016, community members gave $5,100, and $2,500 in gift cards. In comparison, the society received $6,000 in gift cards alone in 2015.

RELATED: Gift cards give hope to Surrey’s aged out youth

RELATED: Surrey’s SOS Children’s Village officially opens two transition suites

“We have had a tremendous response in the past as the need is go great,” said Dunn.

More than 60 Surrey youth participated in the Transition to Adulthood Program in 2017, said Dunn. Seven of those youth participated in the organization’s Year Intensive Housing Program, which provides a home and support for youth who have aged out of care.

The annual gift card drive is on now until Jan. 7.

For those who would like to give a helping hand, gift cards can be dropped off at the SOS Children’s Village office at 302 – 14225 57th Ave. Gift cards can also be mailed to that address. The society asks that you include the purchase receipt of the cards if you would like a tax receipt.

Gift cards to grocery stores, Guildford Town Centre mall, Walmart, Tim Hortons and bus passes are the most needed. To give a cash donation instead, visit www.sosbc.org/holidaychallengedonation.

For more information, call 604-574-2964 or contact Douglas Dunn at douglasdunn@sosbc.org or Kistie Singh at kistiesingh@sosbc.org.



editor@cloverdalereporter.com

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