Nearly 17 years ago, two Sooke parents found themselves at a difficult impasse: drag their son with disabilities into Langford to attend special programs, or put him through an arduous and ineffective school system.
Instead, they chose the latter and formed a group in Sooke which could specialize in providing much-needed and local services to individuals with special needs.
Years later, the Sooke Options for Community Living Association was born, and has served the local community ever since.
“We allow people with disabilities to just be people. Nobody’s labelled here, nobody is told that they are disabled, they are told they are enabled,” said Rod Holt, executive director. “We work on their skills to the best that they can do it.”
SOCLA runs three main programs: an adult day program, after school kids life skills program (where kids learn day-to-day chores and responsibilities such as banking, self-care and cooking) as well as summer camps.
Every part of the program is also tailored to each client, Holt added.
“We want people to grow, cognitively and physically, and allow them to explore and do what they really want to do,” he said, adding both kids and adults programs are exposed to the real world through normal volunteering activities in the Sooke community, such as lending a hand at Village or Western Foods, help prepare meals at Meals on Wheels, and help out with the Sooke Family Resources Society.
SOCLA’s mantra is to create that inclusiveness in daily society rather than keep its clients away, an aspect that really attracted president Karen Pfeifer, whose son has attended SOCLA for the last decade.
“When I was told that my child can go to summer camp and be safe and be supervised, I was absolutely thrilled,” she said. “He had a blast. He has so much fun that he’s able to just be himself.”
In the summer camps, the groups go kayaking, bowling, wall climbing, the Bug Zoo, mini-golfing, to name a few.
Holt and the others expect the need for the service in the community only deepen, as it shows in the way SOCLA expanded in its facilities in the last 10 years, starting out with only one room and eventually buying a two-level house where separate adult and kids programs can be housed comfortably.
Still, the team is optimistic and excited to be able to help out.
“We’re here to serve the community,” Holt said, pointing out Sooke’s business community pitched in greatly for the build of the house, a lot of which was done for free.
“People in Sooke are amazing in what they’ve come and done for us here and we’re so grateful to them.”
Those interested to meet the SOCLA team can attend their open house event on Friday (Feb. 10) at its location on 6816 West Coast Rd., from 1 to 3 p.m.
For more info on its services, please call 778-352-2277.