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The Weather Network
Apr. 19, 2019 | Friday
Local News
NOTL seniors in need of Snow Buddies
There are currently two seniors in Niagara-on-the-Lake on the waiting list for Snow Buddies. (Richard Harley/Niagara Now)

Snow Buddies is putting out a call for volunteers.

The volunteer-driven program works to help Niagara residents 65 and older maintain their quality of life by helping them clear snow in the winter months, in partnership with Community Support Services of Niagara.

Currently, there are about 60 seniors matched to 25 volunteers in the region. Not one of those volunteers is in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

With a wait-list of over 300 seniors regionally, CSSN executive director Carolyn Askeland said there is a need for volunteers. She would love to be able to match every client in need with a volunteer, she said. Two NOTL seniors are currently on the waitlist, she said, but are unable to receive assistance until a volunteer can be found.

Askeland said she's seen a slight decrease in volunteers over the last few years, and it has been increasingly difficult for the organization to reach students. Normally, enlisting students is easiest for them, she said, adding due to the vulnerability of the clients those 18 and older need to undergo a criminal check before being matched.

“In an ideal world we would love to have zero clients on our wait-list," she said. "Right now, we have about 25 volunteers. It speaks to the fact that several of our helpers have more than one client that they’re taking care of. It really depends on the individual volunteer and their capacity to help.”

Due to the high number of people in need, Darlene Upper, leaf and snow buddie coordinator with CSSN, said the organization had to update its standard for accepting clients last year.

“We’ve had to change our criteria for our clients. If they are below 65, we do require a doctor’s note, due to the fact that our waitlist is just so long.”

The snow buddies program falls under Safety at Home, run by CSSN, which also provides free personalized home assessments and referrals to brokered workers for home maintenance and repairs.

“The goal of the program is to assist in the reduction of slips, trips and falls, making it safe for the seniors to go out and get into a vehicle, so they’re not having to trudge through the snow.”

She said there is added risk involved with shoveling snow for an elderly person. There can be significant risk to their health and safety.

“We are trying to make sure that they have the support to live independently in their own home,” Askeland said, adding that they try to accurately identify those in need. “We really want to make sure that we are targeting the individuals that truly need the help and not the individual who says, 'well I could shovel, but it’s not my favourite job.' We really want to make sure, through our screening process, that we are identifying a true need in our community.”

Viera Todd, Niagara Falls resident and CSSN client, has been receiving help through the program for just over a year. She said she had applied for it several years ago, but it has taken this long for them to find her a volunteer. Now, two boys in grade 8 come to shovel the snow whenever needed.

“I don’t know how many other families have volunteers. It was certainly a long time for me to get one,” Todd said, adding that she appreciates the assistance. “It has worked out very well, especially for me. I’m not able to go out and shovel any more like I used to.”

CSSN handles the initial introduction between the client and the volunteer, after that, Askeland said they try to encourage volunteers and clients to communicate directly.

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