By JAYMIE L. WHITE
Special to the Appalachian
STEPHENVILLE – There is a new program coming aimed at assisting seniors in the community. Councillor Tracy Boland has created the Guardian Angel Volunteer Program, a group that will soon be available to senior residents who require different forms of assistance. Boland says this program is the most important thing she wants to be able to bring to the community.
“The program is to help vulnerable low-income seniors who, if they want a hot meal delivered, help with shovelling, minor maintenance, or simply are lonely and would like a friend, they can call on us,” said Boland. “It will give seniors the dignity of staying in their homes longer.”
The program is very near and dear to Boland’s heart.
“I got the idea from being out in the community for years, picking up seniors walking with heavy bags and taking them home helping them with their groceries, pulling my car over helping them shovel, and really listening to them – listening to the sadness of knowing there was no help for them, no family around to help with the little things in life. So I always felt in my heart that I needed to someday do something.”
This is a program that is 100 per cent volunteer based and there will be no cost to town taxpayers. Getting the program kickstarted began with a council meeting.
“The council was more than supportive. They all asked to help as well. They had huge open minds and hearts to the need of seniors in this community and were 100 per cent on board,” said Boland. “So I started with the process of getting the ball rolling.”
The program already has 100 volunteers and counting. Boland said winter is fast approaching so once the last-minute details are ironed out, it will get underway.
“This is the heart of who we are as people. We live in a cynical world of take and take, but we forget to give back sometimes, and with the amazing support from town council I feel that it’s time for this. It’s time to bring back heart and compassion in the town we love so much.”
The program will run every week and Boland hopes it will continue long after she is gone.
“I will be a senior someday and I would like to know someone will be there for me in the future,” shared Boland.
For now, the program is only going to be offered to residents within Stephenville, but Boland hopes to grow it to include other communities as well. Prospective volunteers are invited to reach out to Boland via social media.
“We have now over 100 volunteers handpicked by myself, because I want to make sure our volunteers are reputable and safe for the seniors,” said Boland. “We have a great crew mixed of many skills. We have lots of volunteers with snow plows. We have lots of cooks, bakers, cleaners, carpenters, musicians, electricians and so on. They jumped at the chance when I approached them. They want to give back to our community and want to see the compassion and heart back in our beautiful town.”
Julia and James Benoit are excited that the Senior Angel Program is coming to the community.
“It’s so important to help the seniors. Seniors have nothing. It would be nice if there were card games or something for them to do, but they’ve got nothing,” said Benoit. “There’s a lot of older people who are in their house summer, winter, with nowhere to go and nothing to do.
Benoit’s husband no longer holds a license due to a previous medical condition, so she understands how difficult it can be for seniors who have no way of getting out of the house and don’t have the freedom to come and go as they please.
“It’s not easy when you’re old,” said Benoit. “We don’t have a car. We had one but gave it away when his license got taken back, so we’re stuck.”
Benoit is grateful for the help they receive, but not everyone has the same access to assistance, and help is not always readily available because people have their own responsibilities.
“There’s a lot of poor people worse off than what we are,” said Benoit. “This is long overdue.”
Benoit believes it is important for seniors to remain engaged, social and active.
“Having programs for elderly people to get together, play games, and get their minds moving is so important,” said Benoit.
Boland wants the community to know that they are here to help.
“I know there will be bumps in the road and I know it will take time to iron out the details on how we roll this out, but we as a volunteer committee, want this to happen for the seniors. It’s time to try to make a difference in their lives.”