History: Sooke claim to 'Volunteer Capital of Canada'
HISTORY OF OUR CLAIM TO ‘VOLUNTEER CAPITAL OF CANADA’ - by Elida Peers, Historian, April 15, 2010
1. Many years ago (around 1980 I think) the Toronto Star weekly publication did a feature story on Sooke holding it up as an example of perhaps the most outstanding example of volunteerism in the country. I can’t remember the exact words off the top of my head, but I did remember that the story had happened. More than anything, it featured the Sooke Community Association and how its tremendous volunteer effort made so much possible within this community.
2. In 2008, when Liz Johnson and I attended (as volunteers and at our own expense) the provincial Communities in Bloom conference and awards dinner in Castlegar, one of the judges made a point of saying that because of the high marks given to Sooke’s volunteer effort by the judges who visited Sooke to adjudicate that year, that we should consider styling ourselves as the “Volunteer Capital of BC” That went over big with us of course, so when we did our report to Council that year, we told them these stories, and proposed that at our welcome to Sooke signage, we follow through with the idea, and suggested that we go a step further, that we upgrade the term from BC to Canada. Our comments were that it was a fun type suggestion, that we didn’t know whether other communities in Canada may have also given themselves that name, but if they had, it was not intended to make claims to cause a war, but perhaps even have a fun time getting to know, greet, etc any other communities that were similarly known.
3. Fortunately, Sooke Mayor and Council saw it as a positive idea, and they voted to accept the proposal.
4. Within months of that Council meeting, if my memory serves, Councilor David Bennett approached us for documentation of the origins of the term. AS you know we are very shorthanded at the museum, we have a great deal of demand for archival and historical research, and we have not yet had time to re-organize the archives so that we can lay hands on everything as readily as we would like. However, we did take the time to find the materials, even purchase the one remaining collectors’ item Toronto magazine on EBay and shared it with Councilor Bennett as I think if I remember right, he said he was using it in the official community plan.
5. At the Communities in Bloom conference in Harrison Hot Springs in 2009, Sooke was awarded the provincial Trophy for community participation, which we were truly proud to bring home with us. (My point being, a second group of judges had felt the same way about our community’s volunteer efforts.)
6. You may be aware of the Volunteer Recognition program initiated in the International Year of the Volunteer, shortly after Ed Macgregor became Mayor.
On behalf of the Mayor of Sooke, I have been the co-coordinator of that arms-length program since its inception. Mayor and Council laid out the terms at the time, and the clear decision was to accept nominations from the entire region, East Sooke to Port Renfrew. A study of the Volunteer Recognition Exhibit standing within the District’s front entrance on Otter Point Road will confirm that individuals from East Sooke to Port Renfrew are indeed included in the program. The nomination forms are available on the District’s website, and you will note that while all volunteers should be truly appreciated, this program was set up with a criteria intended to particularly recognize a long term commitment as a volunteer.
7. Speaking from my own personal perspective, and I am sure that many would agree, I would hate to see boundaries set up regarding volunteers. Many of us, through our many years of volunteering, have not seen ourselves as serving a political boundary but as serving our widespread community. The more harmonious relationships between us all, throughout our region, joining in working together, I am sure the happier we will be as we all try to support each other and build our area’s future together.
8. Speaking only from my personal point of view, I think it would be good to be a little light-hearted about this, and have fun with it, embracing any other Canadian community who may welcome visitors with the same title, and enjoy sharing in our good fortune. I personally wouldn’t like to see us tot up points to make sure we beat another Canadian community, laying claim to a serious title to outdo someone else, when we are all trying to accomplish good for our community. To me this would be contrary to the whole purpose of volunteering.