Sooke’s reputation as a caring, sharing community is well earned. No single organization stands alone; there are so many caring people who volunteer their time in many ways to continue making us such a fine community. One organization is the Contact Community Assistance Society (CONTACT), which is marking its 50th anniversary this year.
Mary Abbott was a senior lady living alone and infirm in Sooke at that time who became the first telephone coordinator, taking calls from individuals who needed help. In 1970, Sooke was a village, with a population of about 3,000. Among the group’s founding members were a public health nurse Amy Chowjka and East Sooke’s pioneer humanitarian Grace Horgan.
Within the year, 30 cases were handled, and as the service became better known through the weekly newspaper, run by Maurice Tozer and later Bud Pauls, there were 100 clients the following year.
In 1974, the service was expanded to include a stock of sickroom supplies, including crutches, bedpans, wheelchairs, and walkers, which could be borrowed as households needed them.
Patricia Rudd, pictured here, a volunteer well-grounded in community affairs, joined the group in the 1970s, and for more than a quarter-century contributed her efforts, her final years as an organizer of transportation assistance.
By the 1980s, with the burgeoning population of the area, the sickroom supply cupboard expanded – its space needs were met by the use of the basement in Sooke Community Hall. Many volunteers contributed their work over these years, outstanding among them perhaps Faith Jacobsen, Margaret Frend and Nellie Brehn.
In 1996, when Betty Semple and Bergi Jones were in the group’s forefront, CONTACT provided assistance to 700 clients. Transportation of larger items such as hospital beds created its own challenges, which were met by Rob Peters, who took on the responsibility of contributing his moving vans to transport these supplies.
A decade later, we saw women such as Dianne Campbell, Pat Boon, Lynda Nex and Roberta Davies take major roles in meeting these social service needs of their fellow residents, as the population continued to grow.
Newer faces are leading this work today, carrying on the time-honoured Sooke tradition of “helping out” whatever the cause where they are needed. The image of Patricia Rudd shown here is but a symbol of many, many good-hearted people.
Elida Peers is the historian of the Sooke Region Museum.