Short­ages be­hind the wheel puts them be­hind the 8-ball

Groups such as Com­mu­nity Care Con­cepts, which ad­min­is­ters Meals on Wheels, find them­selves with a short­age of vol­un­teers due to chang­ing de­mo­graph­ics

The Woolwich Observer - - LIVING HERE - ALI WIL­SON

WHILE NA­TIONAL VOL­UN­TEER WEEK show­cases the amaz­ing work vol­un­teers do, it also shines a spot­light on the ever grow­ing need for more peo­ple will­ing to help.

Vol­un­teerism is dwin­dling across the board, whether it be for events, lo­cal sports teams or ser­vice clubs. From such groups, the mes­sage is unan­i­mous: they need more help.

For Com­mu­nity Care Con­cepts, which ad­min­is­ters se­niors’ ser­vices such as Meals on Wheels, vol­un­teers are the very life blood of the or­ga­ni­za­tion. There is a press­ing need for as­sis­tance.

A record high de­mand for their ser­vices has come along with a wave of re­tir­ing vol­un­teers and only a slow stream of new peo­ple en­ter­ing to help.

“Our agency is over 30 years old and across the three town­ships we have had very, very good up­take and vol­un­teer re­ten­tion, but they are ag­ing and so we are find­ing it harder and harder to re­cruit young peo­ple into vol­un­teerism,” said Karla Frey, com­mu­nity out­reach co­or­di­na­tor with Com­mu­nity Care Con­cepts of Wool­wich, Welles­ley and Wil­mot, not­ing it could be due to many things in­clud­ing a lack of knowl­edge of the op­por­tu­ni­ties to volun- teer lo­cally, the de­mands of work and the chang­ing econ­omy.

“We are very flex­i­ble with what is avail­able for vol­un­teerism. Of­ten peo­ple just aren’t aware of the flex­i­bil­ity and what is avail­able in terms of vol­un­teerism here at the agency.”

Among the many ser­vices that they need vol­un­teers for, they have an im­me­di­ate and des­per­ate need for driv­ers to help with their Meals on Wheels and as­sisted trans­porta­tion pro­grams.

“Our big­gest need is get­ting folks their food, mak­ing sure those hot meals come to them and they are nu­tri­tion­ally sup­ported and not feel­ing iso­lated so­cially as well be­cause they get that con­tact,” ex­plained Frey.

Meals on Wheels de­liv­ers hot meals around noon hour from meal servers in Wool­wich, Welles­ley and Wil­mot through a route of around five or six houses.

“This year we will see the largest num­ber of meals that we have ever had de­liv­ered,” said Cathy Har­ring­ton, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Com­mu­nity Care Con­cepts. “Over 21,000 meals that we have de­liv­ered across the three town­ships and so with those 21,000 its ad­di­tional routes – a vol­un­teer can only de­liver so many – so we have had to add ex­tra routes, which means more vol­un­teers.”

In ad­di­tion to the de­liv­ery of meals, the pro­gram serves as some­what of a watch­dog ser­vice for the vul­ner­a­ble in the com­mu­nity.

“They be­come the eyes

and ears in the com­mu­nity, so when you’re drop­ping off a meal to some­body it may be the only hu­man con­tact that per­son has in that whole day,” said Frey.

Although the vol­un­teers are just drop­ping off the meal, they do be­come fa­mil­iar with res­i­dents and can flag any­thing ir­reg­u­lar or is­sues with safety at the home. CCC can then fol­low up with them and help to pro­vide so­lu­tions.

Just re­cently, how­ever, a lack of vol­un­teers has forced the agency to con­dense some routes. With that, the de­mand is higher than ever for help.

Frey ex­plains there are many ways to boost vol­un­teer num­bers, in­clud­ing busi­nesses pro­mot­ing par­tic­i­pa­tion dur­ing lunchtime, stu­dents meet­ing their re­quired vol­un­teer hours and peo­ple pitch­ing in as they can, per­haps vol­un­teer­ing spo­rad­i­cally rather than reg­u­larly.

“There are all dif­fer­ent ways in which we can in­cor­po­rate vol­un­teers, and we re­ally try to make it around what works for peo­ple,” she said.

Also in dire need is the as­sisted trans­porta­tion pro­gram. With this, vol­un­teers are needed to drive peo­ple to med­i­cal ap­point­ments, gro­cery shop­ping and any other type of out­ing they may need as­sis­tance with.

“It’s a great op­por­tu­nity to ac­cess that more homey en­vi­ron­ment of a driver,” said Frey. “Vol­un­teers that we get in here are lovely and they are a friend on your way to a dif­fi­cult ap­point­ment.”

Driv­ers take peo­ple to ap­point­ments such as can­cer treat­ments, MRIs and eye tests, for in­stance. Be­yond the trans­porta­tion, vol­un­teers also pro­vide some much-needed sup­port to the clients.

“It’s not al­ways good news for peo­ple so it’s nice to have the com­fort – not ev­ery­body has some­body who can drive them,” she said.

Over the past year, they have pro­vided some 8,000 rides for peo­ple, both within the re­gion and to des­ti­na­tions be­yond. With that, vol­un­teer­ing to help with the pro­gram is com­pletely flex­i­ble.

“It is the most flex­i­ble in that you just say when you can and can’t do it. We phone you and if you say yes, that’s awe­some – we will sched­ule you with a ride – and if you say no, then we will call you next time or of­fer you a cou­ple more rides that we need to fill.”

The or­ga­ni­za­tion works very hard to ac­com­mo­date any­one in­ter­ested in vol­un­teer­ing, there are no lengthy com­mit­ments – any help they can get they are happy to have it.

“We couldn’t do the work that we do with­out the con­tri­bu­tion of vol­un­teers,” said Har­ring­ton.

Orig­i­nally founded by vol­un­teers as Wool­wich Home Sup­port, CCC has seen peo­ple com­mit­ting upwards of 30 and 40 years as vol­un­teers.

“Long be­fore our or­ga­ni­za­tion was formed there were vol­un­teers through the lo­cal churches pre­par­ing meals and de­liv­er­ing them to se­niors who were iso­lated in their com­mu­nity. It was re­ally only when the vol­ume be­came so big that the or­ga­ni­za­tion for­mal­ized that at that time we chose Wool­wich Home Sup­port. We have never ever for­got­ten the con- tri­b­u­tion that vol­un­teers made,” said Har­ring­ton. “We have that spirit of help­ing your neigh­bours in need, rolling up your sleeves and do­ing what it takes to just make this a great com­mu­nity for peo­ple to age well in. Those are the mes­sages that we con­tinue to hear and that’s a unique piece that I re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate around the town­ship. It’s just that spirit of giv­ing back to the com­mu­nity.”

Get­ting in­volved is easy, Frey says. To vol­un­teer, just reach out with your in­ter­est and then they can go from there to work around what will fit into your sched­ule.

There are 110 ac­tive vol­un­teers across the three town­ships, col­lec­tively putting in around 9,000 hours a year to help sup­port the many pro­grams.

“If we can use the vol­un­teers our ca­pac­ity and ca­pa­bil­ity is a lot big­ger,” said Frey. “If you can only give a tiny bit that is huge to us be­ing a vol­un­teer-based agency.”

Work­ing di­rectly with vol­un­teers, Frey says it has been a bless­ing to see the gen­eros­ity come out of the com­mu­nity.

“We love them. I en­joy work­ing with vol­un­teers be­cause I find it quite a bless­ing to sit with peo­ple who come on their own, don’t look for any­thing in re­turn and just want to give - they are just in­spir­ing peo­ple to work with, for sure.”

“We couldn’t do the work that we do with­out the con­tri­bu­tion of vol­un­teers,” added Har­ring­ton. “The needs are not de­creas­ing, they are con­tin­u­ing to in­crease.”

[FAISAL ALI / THE OB­SERVER]

Com­mu­nity Care Con­cepts or­ga­nized a free con­cert with the KW Sym­phony at the Bres­lau Com­mu­nity Cen­tre April 19. The show is one of the smaller ways the or­ga­ni­za­tions works to ben­e­fit res­i­dents.

[FAISAL ALI / THE OB­SERVER]

Re­flect­ing CCC’s fo­cus on ser­vices for se­niors, the crowd was thor­oughly en­ter­tained by the mu­sic and the lessons pro­vided by the sym­phony con­duc­tor.

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