It’s not unheard of in Sooke to see a group of people collecting cans on the side of the road, washing cars, feeding the needy at the food bank, or making pancakes for students at local schools.
Question is, who are these people, these often-unseen volunteers who give up their own free time for their community?
Well, like countless others in the Sooke community, Mike Thomas can’t really stand still. He’s always out and about, whether it’s organizing cans and filling hampers at the Sooke Food Bank, or doing maintenance work at the local museum.
In 1983, he joined the Sooke Lions club and for the past 33 years has worked on a laundry list of projects, including the playground at Murray Road Park, Sooke Cemetery, Camp Shawnigan, delivering Christmas hampers, even providing security at the Sooke Fine Arts Show. He’s also a central organizer for the Hard Times Dance, one of Sooke’s most prolific and longest-running music events.
As such, Thomas earned himself a few acknowledgments over the years, such as Sooke’s volunteer pin, Hospice Volunteer of the Year, a spot on the Town Criers statue at Ogden Point, and as a centerfold in Seniors Magazine.
But being a volunteer is not about fame, it’s about doing something using the kindness of one’s heart without expecting anything back in return.
“We all know that volunteers are not in it for the recognition, just a desire to serve,” Thomas said.
Among his ongoing volunteer work is his time at the Sooke Food Bank, which, thanks to his efforts and all the others working there, has helped feed 3,528 families last year in Sooke, a number he said keeps growing.
The things he’s done to help the local community goes even further afield. After learning the Sooke Hospice Society needed some much-needed support, Thomas completed a long walk from Gold River to Tahsis several times, which gathered interest from other Sooke residents as well.
Sooke Hospice is a society of volunteers who provide physical, emotional and spiritual care for individuals suffering a terminal illnesses. Thomas’ walks helped raise funds for the society’s ongoing services in Sooke.
And, despite all that, he still can’t really idle by. When he’s not at the food bank, he works with other volunteers to help steer the Sooke Christmas Bureau, another initiative to feed the local community.
Thomas described this experience as “hectic, but rewarding to see the town and area come together every year in support of this much needed event.”
He’s also got a taste for theatre. In 1982, he was instrumental in founding the Stage West Players (now known as the Sooke Harbour Players).
Whether it’s another pancake breakfast, or a Hard Times Dance, or organizing a new arrival of food cans, one thing is certain: Sooke is full of “quiet” volunteers like Thomas, and could always use a few more.
“It’s rewarding to get out there and help the community, because if none of us did, we’d have a place of just streets and houses, and nothing else.”