Seniors wanted for Pelham’s new volunteer program
Program provides fulfilment and community connection for seniors
“A lot of seniors when they retire at 65 wonder, ‘What am I going to do?’” said Sharon Cook, a member of Pelham’s Seniors Advisory Committee.
The Town of Pelham has the solution for residents living out their golden years who may be seeking an answer to that question.
The municipality is rolling out its new Senior VIP Program this month to encourage and engage seniors to become more involved in community and social activities.
The Town is looking for volunteers to give their time and act as Pelham’s ambassadors at the Meridian Community Centre, which is a designated Seniors Active Living Centre.
Cook said seniors such as herself offer a vast array of experience gained from working and family life that can be used in a meaningful way — through volunteer work.
Cook explained the benefits the program has for seniors: a chance to meet new people, get involved in the community, provide purpose and stave off loneliness.
It also has the opportunity to provide a more personable experience for users of the community centre.
“I’ve been in several community centres around the region and I’ve never been welcomed by anyone. Sometimes, I even had trouble finding the welcome desk,” Cook said.
“I could see this (program) take off, especially when you consider 40 per cent of Pelham’s population is over 55. There is a broad base of people to entice.”
That statistic comes from StatsCan, which also reports 29 per cent of Pelham’s population is over the age of 65.
Brittany Maclean, the town’s active living programmer, said the seniors’ programs will see volunteers greet guests as they enter the community centre, answer questions and help with activities.
“The community centre has become the information hub for Pelham,” Maclean explained, and added that people often come to the centre and ask for directions, information on programs and even the best places to eat a good meal or shop.
“What better way to have answers to those questions than to hear the input from the people who have lived here the longest and have a unique perspective?”
Maclean said she is unaware of a similar program anywhere else in Niagara. It has been made possible thanks to a $24,729 grant from the federal government’s New Horizons for Seniors Program.
There’s no cost involved for volunteers. Requirements for the program include the completion of a daylong Service Excellence Training program that includes a free lunch, and a police background check paid for by the Town.
Volunteers are asked to provide their availability, and are only required to provide a minimum of six volunteer hours a month.
“But most of the volunteers that have signed up have agreed to more than that,” Maclean said.
The program is being led under the guidance of a Senior VIP Working Group consisting of members of the Pelham Seniors Advisory Committee, senior residents and other stakeholders and Town staff.
The first training session has been held, with six volunteers signed on to participate in the program.
Maclean said the goal is to have over 60 senior volunteers.
The next training session is planned for Jan. 23 from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Cook will also be on hand at the front desk of the community centre on Jan. 10 at 1 p.m. to answer questions potential volunteers may have about the program.
For more information about the program call Stephanie Yole at 905-892-2607 Ext. 341 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.