Volunteers urgently needed for Norfolk’s Snow Buddies program

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All it takes is a shovel and a little bit of time to make a big difference in a senior’s life.

Volunteers are urgently needed in Haldimand and Norfolk for the Snow Buddies program operated since 2009 by Senior Support Services, a non-profit agency offering many programs to help seniors remain in their homes.

Snow Buddies is a service to help with snow removal by matching volunteers with neighbours who are 60 and older and those with mobility issues.

“It gives volunteers fresh air and exercise and prevents seniors from slipping and falling,” said program co-ordinator Kristina Wiseman.

She said the work also gives volunteers experience for their resumes and can be used by high school students for their community volunteer hour requirement.

Statistics show that every 10 minutes at least one senior visits an emergency department due to a fall and every 30 minutes at least one senior is admitted to hospital after falling.

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“Snow Buddies help seniors stay independent and safe in their home,” said Wiseman. “It can also allow for support services to get into the home for care, allows them to leave for medical appointments and go to the grocery store. It can help seniors to not feel trapped in their own home for the winter.”

The concept is simple: volunteers are matched with a senior buddy and, when it snows, agree to shovel driveways and walkways in a timely manner.

Once the matches are made by Senior Support Services, volunteers and their buddies make arrangements about how they want the job done.

Volunteers are given an orientation manual that covers expectations, health and safety, customer service and, this year, special instructions about COVID-19 restrictions.

Because a group volunteer orientation meeting can’t be held this year, Wiseman makes arrangements to meet with each volunteer and their parents before matches are made.

The problem, said Wiseman, is the number of people in need of snow removal far outnumbers volunteer snow buddies.

She said that in the past, neighbours knew each other better and spent more time helping when needed. Now, with less neighbour interaction and young people spending more time indoors, that has changed.

“People should just be looking after their neighbours,” said Wiseman. “If they’re out shovelling, they should carry on and do the next few yards, if they see a need. There could be a good reason why it’s not being done.”

Although the numbers vary from year to year, Wiseman said she can have up to 30 seniors on a waiting list for a snow buddy. The program covers a huge area and volunteers are needed in communities right across Haldimand and Norfolk.

Anyone interested in volunteering can contact Wiseman at 519-426-6060, ext. 104, or kwiseman@seniorsupport.ca

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