For the past 24 years Seniors Outreach has been working to enhance the lives of seniors in Kelowna by providing support and linking them to needed services. Seniors Outreach connects with isolated, aging seniors so that they can maintain their dignity and independence. The team at Seniors Outreach provides information on a wide variety of resources and services available to seniors, including, but not limited to: housing, finances, social and recreational activities, health, safety and legal issues. Thea Wood is the Volunteer Coordinator at Seniors Outreach and she shared some of the highlights of how volunteers make a difference in seniors’ lives and also about their new program where the community can significantly contribute to the health and well being of elders.
“Our programming is designed to meet the immediate needs of seniors and given the cost of living in Kelowna, housing and food security are at the forefront,” explains Thea. “We partner with local community organizations to support the Food Security program. Following the increase in demand due to COVID, the increased cost of living and natural disasters, along with so many seniors living on very limited incomes, the need for food has grown exponentially for our organization.”
This increased need has led to Seniors Outreach launching a new program: ‘Sponsor a Senior’.
“For $50.00 dollars a month, donors can provide a senior with weekly meals delivered to their door along with a personal touch including gifts for their Birthday, Valentines, Easter and Christmas and a personalized card,” says Thea. “If you prefer to be anonymous the Seniors Outreach team will ensure your senior receives your meals and gifts. If you would like to be more involved, you can become a volunteer and correspond with your senior in whatever capacity you are comfortable with.”
“Volunteering with seniors provides the volunteer a sense of purpose and is so rewarding,” adds Thea. “Seniors are mostly thankful for any support and appreciate the social connection a volunteer can provide. Our programs couldn’t function without the support, hard work and commitment of our volunteers.”
Thea loves that there are a wide variety of opportunities for volunteers. “We have volunteers that have been with us for years and others who are with us short term. We are flexible and don’t require a volunteer to do specific hours. We ask they help when they can. We have virtual and in-person opportunities, including hosting on-line social groups, delivering of food and medications, friendly visiting (done both over the phone and in-person), Safety Calling, handyperson (simple house or yard repairs), tax preparers and of course, our Board Members.”
Currently Thea engages about 75 volunteers, who help casually to weekly. Last year, volunteers contributed 2678 hours.
“The pandemic was very challenging as so much of what we do requires connecting with the senior,” continues Thea. “We adapted the programs to ensure everyone’s safety and it is difficult to find adequate words to describe how much individual and collective acts of kindness mean to us.”
Thea has seen first-hand the positive impact volunteers make, including better social connection and also possibly saving a senior’s life.
“Last year a volunteer was making deliveries to a senior and when they didn’t come to the door, the volunteer investigated and discovered the senior had fallen and needed help to get up,” says Thea. “Another volunteer was originally from Germany and I connected her to a German senior who missed being able to speak to someone in her home language. This match has been a huge success. They visit each other regularly and talk on the phone almost daily! It has also led into connecting them both with three other seniors who are also German and they all connect with each other now! This has brought everyone so much joy!”
Dorothee Birker is the communications and development coordinator for KCR Community Resources. If you are interested in sharing your volunteer or organizational news, please contact Dorothee at email@example.com.