To book space in the Sooke Community Hall: Sheila 250-642-3660
The Sooke Community Association (SCA) was incorporated in 1935 to serve Sooke and surrounding communities. The primary objective of the Society was to purchase land to build a community hall, which they did in 1937 on donated land; then to "operate, lease, rent or allow the use of, and otherwise manage the hall in such manner as may be decided upon by the Society from time to time." Additionally, SCA are mandated to "carry on such activities of a religious, patriotic, philanthropic, charitable, social, agricultural, or a sporting character, or otherwise for the benefit of the Sooke community." SCA has over the years purchased additional lands, and currently owns and maintains all of the sports fields in our community as well as tennis courts, and the Sooke Flats - a recreational and camping area.
For 8 decades SCA has been a focal point of the community, bringing volunteers together. They provide free or subsidized space for area senior-based non-profit groups, including Sooke Meals on Wheels Society, Contact Community Assistance Society, Sooke Harbourside Lions, Sooke Lions Club, SookeFood Bank Society, Sooke Senior Drop-in Centre and the New Horizons Contract Bridge Club, and that is just in the 'downstairs'. The Sooke Community Hall is a place where these groups and others host their fund raisers and craft fairs, allowing them to continue their own good works. It is the venue for weddings, funerals, dances, fitness training, public forums, private events, and is designated as the main emergency response centre for the District of Sooke. The annual "traffic" of users through the hall exceeds 33,000 people: 19,000 using the upstairs facilities,and 14,000 the downstairs.
Back in the mid-1930s the citizens of the day held outdoor picnics with salmon barbecues at the Sooke Flats. It was a time when people still got together for social events and an evening out. Thus began a long history of service to the community. So many familiar and historical last names appear in the records of the association; George, Muir, Sheilds, Glinz, Linell, Goodrich. One family name still seen is Linell. Today, Karl Linell, son of Oke and Mae Clare Linell, is the current president of the Sooke Community Association and he is a passionate advocate for the association and the community hall. Both his parents were heavily involved and he has taken the reins of the association. The SCA has always been a driving force for community activities and decisions.
“It has been this hall, maintained by volunteers, that has kept the lifeblood of Sooke flowing,” states a comment in The Sooke Story, The History and the Heartbeat, published in 1999 by the Sooke Region Museum.
Until 2000 Sooke was well-known for All Sooke Days, an event run by the Sooke Community Association, that started out as a community picnic. Linell could be found tending the fires for the barbecue salmon and the baron of beef. Linell said "Dickie George cooked the salmon and one year they cooked 1,200 pounds of salmon for the large crowds that came to the popular event." The beef was cooked in a traditional native way. It was soaked in water from the Sooke River, wrapped in seaweed and cooked in a fire pit which had been prepped for a week. “The fire burned for one week to get ashes and to warm the ground,” said Linell. “The health department didn’t like that.” All Sooke Days ended in 2000, the victim of changing times, health regulations and lack of money for events such as the world famous logging show. “We had to pay big money to be in the circuit,” said Linell. He said other events on the island drew people away from All Sooke Days. All Sooke Days would draw between 7,000 and 8,000 people.
Fast forward to 2013. The Sooke Community Association has a number of property holdings, with the main money maker being the Sooke Flats campground and the main money loser being the community Hall. Once the only place in Sooke to hold a convention, the hall is now used less frequently. The money from the conventions were used to maintain the hall, which these days has bills of $5,000 per month. The uninsulated building is still used a lot by youth and sports groups, but nothing like it used to be. The hall used to hold 18-20 conventions a year. Linell said a lot of convention people wanted to come out here after being stuck in a suit and tie in Victoria and enjoy themselves in a casual way. That was the draw — the casualness.
There are a number of community groups who still use parts of the building for meetings, food services and equipment loans. They are not asked to pay anything for the use of the downstairs space, although they do voluntarily contribute a stipend for maintenance and utilities. The insurance is one of the big expenses.
The Sooke Community Association owns the Sooke Community Hall, Fred Milne Park, Art Morris Park (ball fields and tennis court) and the Sooke Flats. The campground at the Sooke Flats is slowly being upgraded with power to accommodate the large RVs that now arrive to camp, and a rock wall was built to prevent erosion of land by high water in the river.
So close to 78 years later, what does the Sooke Community Association need and want? “Working volunteers,” said Dave Clark, current vice-president of the association. The association has 12 directors who are mostly getting up there in age. They have been trying to train young loggers for logging sports shows but too often they move to go to university or up north to work.
So, what they are seeking is a number of volunteers who might want to anything from splitting firewood for the campground to maintenance of the hall, kitchen help at conventions to writing for grants and someone who could organize the associations records. “You can come when you want, we’re all volunteers,” said Clark. He said retired or semi-retired people might find it fulfilling, lending their expertise to the association.
The Sooke Community Association currently meets on the first Monday of each month. For more information, call the hall at 250-642-5521 and leave a message, someone will return your call.
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© 2013 Sooke Region Community Health Initiative (CHI).