From left, SOS executive director Susanna Newton, SOS director Pam May-Straka, SOS marketing co-ordinator Lissa Alexander, former SOS executive director and volunteer Kay Burgoyne, and former director and volunteer Candy Ashbridge. - Courtesy of Brittany Sommerfeld

New book celebrates history of Parksville’s Society of Organized Services

‘Celebrating a Caring Community’ sheds light on community organization’s past

Beginning as a conversation by three concerned women at a kitchen table 51 years ago, the Society of Organized Services (SOS) has grown to become a model social enterprise and what some describe as the very heart of the community.

Candy Ashbridge agrees with that statement. She is a former board member as well as a volunteer at SOS, and she was on the committee to help bring a new book to fruition.

“This is an excellent story and tells the role that the community played in growing SOS over the years,” she said. “SOS is the community, it is made up of residents, supported by residents, and we have all created this wonderful organization together.”

The book, entitled Celebrating a Caring Community, begins with the founding members and their desire to assist schoolchildren and seniors whose needs were going unmet in 1968. It shows the grassroots movement by local residents including children and youth, business owners and community leaders, who banded together to ensure friends and neighbours were not going without.

Executive director Susanna Newton said she is very pleased with how the book turned out.

“We spent many long, enjoyable hours working on this project,” said Newton.

“There was a group of us, which we affectionately called ‘The Book Club’ who worked with a writer and a publishing team to bring this book to fruition. I think this is an important piece of our local history and a positive story about what can happen when a community comes together.”

Newton added that volunteers, staff, clients, community partners and program participants were interviewed for the book, and many others were found in newspaper articles and documents located in the SOS history books.

“If you had anything to do with SOS over the last 51 years, you may just find your name in the book,” said Newton.

Ashbridge said the book is well-written, making it an easy read, and the story is less than 150 pages. The book also includes a timeline and some interesting appendices at the back, including a poem written by a homeless resident who was housed through SOS. She said people who may not be aware of the depth and breadth of SOS will be quite surprised by the book.

“Many people think SOS revolves totally around the Thrift Shop and they are unaware that there are 30 programs that are funded through the Thrift Shop,” said Newton.

“SOS has played such a major role in this community and is truly a community leader.”

Celebrating a Caring Community is available at local Mulberry Bush Bookstores, at the SOS Thrift Shop, and at SOS Community Services Centres in Parksville and Qualicum Beach. The book is $20 and all proceeds support SOS programs and services. For more information about SOS, visit

— NEWS Staff, submitted

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