In midst of pandemic, West Van seeks volunteers to act as antidote to isolation

West Vancouver is looking for a few good volunteers and a few decent devices.

With social isolation a likely byproduct of the pandemic, municipal staff are reaching out to 4,000 potentially vulnerable members of the Seniors’ Activity Centre, one phone call at a time.

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“We’re making lists of what they need and how we can support them,” said community wellness manager Jill Lawlor.

But to provide that support, the district needs residents to step up.

"Many volunteers at the Seniors’ Activity Centre are seniors themselves and are vulnerable,” Lawlor said. “We are reaching out for volunteers that are under the age of 70 that are healthy ... that want to help.”

As far as how many volunteers might be needed, Lawlor said that’s up in the air. 

“That is changing by the hour,” she said. “We are trying to triage the needs of our members with the needs and skills of our volunteers.”

In terms of immediate needs, the Seniors’ Activity Centre is dishing out freshly-made sandwiches, salad, fruit, entrees and baked goods from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“Our centre is closed but the front door is open,” Lawlor said, explaining they can only admit one person at a time.

In addition to offering take-out, the centre is also offering food delivery for those who need it.

“We’re here to provide hope and stay connected,” Lawlor said.

To aid that connection, the main phone line for the activity centre is now functioning as the West Vancouver seniors help line.

West Vancouverites who need help or just need to hear a friendly voice can call 604-925-7280. The lines open at 8 a.m. seven days a week. The lines close at 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 6:30 p.m. on Friday and at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

“Often we have older adults who are alone and at night is when you start to worry ... we want to make sure that when they’re having those feelings or those moments, that there’s a friendly voice that they can chat with,” Lawlor said.

In order to help residents stay connected during self-isolation, West Vancouver is providing classes and activities via phone, livestream and videochat.

“That normal chair aerobics where you might have a dumbbell in your hand – we’re now doing that with livefeed and showing you how to use a soup can,” Lawlor said.

The activity centre is also looking to collect “relatively recent technology” like tablets and phones for seniors who are increasingly reliant on an online community. Charging cables are also needed.

To find out more or to volunteer, residents can call 604-925-7280.

“Giving back at a time like this allows you to feel that connection with your community,” Lawlor said. “Those good feelings, right now, are priceless.”

As police are not providing non-essential criminal record checks, West Vancouver is looking for volunteers who have undergone a criminal record check within the last six months. Volunteers will also need to go through orientation training.

The West Vancouver Foundation has launched the North Shore COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund to support charitable organizations providing front-line service.

Donations can be made online, by mail or by contacting their office. For more information or to donate click here.

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© North Shore News

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