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Sooke Family Resource Society grew from kitchen-table talk to 27 programs

The society is in talks with local developers to reserve space suitable for a childcare centre in future buildings planned in Langford and Sooke
Renee Lormé-Gulbrandsen, executive director of the Sooke Family Resource Society, in the early-years drop-in room at the Sooke Child, Youth and Family Centre on Wadams Way. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

What started as a group of six Sooke women sitting around a kitchen table discussing solutions to parenting challenges is celebrating its 40th anniversary — with 27 family-oriented programs and services.

The group formed the Sooke Family Resource Society in 1984, initially receiving a contract from the Sooke School Board and what’s now known as the Ministry of Children and Family Development to provide an educational support counsellor to help at-risk youth stay in school.

The non-profit organization introduced its first parenting education program the following year.

Today, it offers programs and services that range from child care to family counselling, prenatal education, a toy lending library and even a help desk with free technical support.

Initially conceived to serve the needs of Sooke families, the society now also offers programs in Langford, Colwood and Greater Victoria, as well as running a community thrift shop and a preschool.

“We see ourselves as a neighbourhood house where families come when in need,” said executive director Renee Lormé-Gulbrandsen. “We support them through the ages, with early years programs, outreach for youth and counselling for adults. We meet people’s needs in all parts of their lives.”

The organization operates on a budget of around $5 million, with 82 per cent of the funding coming from the provincial government, 16 per cent from foundations and other grantors, such as the Victoria Foundation, and the remainder from private donations.

Its staff of 50, assisted by 35 contractors and 30 volunteers recorded more than 21,500 interactions with the community in 2023.

Programs also include support services for adults with disabilities, from Port Renfrew to Victoria.

“We have grown over the years in response to needs in the community,” said Lormé-Gulbrandsen, who joined the organization in December.

One area where the group would like to be able to provide more services is in child care.

The society is in talks with local developers to reserve space suitable for a child-care centre in future buildings planned in Langford and Sooke.

The greatest need, identified by the Ministry of Education and Child Care and echoed by parents in the community, is care for children up to three years old. The society would be the service provider, with the funding coming from the ministry.

Currently, the society operates the Kingfisher Preschool, for children ages three to five .

Lormé-Gulbrandsen, who is also on the board of directors for Volunteer B.C., said her goal is to increase public awareness of what they do and raise more money from private donors.

The society has three locations: An office in the Sooke Child, Youth and Family Centre; the Colwood office in the West Shore Child, Youth and Family Centre; and the Langford office on Bryn Maur Road (off Goldstream).

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