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Just Ask Angie: Where are volunteers needed the most on the Coast?

Many long-standing organizations rely on volunteerism to provide services to our communities
Just Ask Angie file
Angie Theilmann is a information and referral specialist at the Sunshine Coast Resource Centre. She has a biweekly column with the Coast Reporter.

Q: I want to help out my community. Where is there the most critical need for volunteers on the coast?

A: There are so, so many long-standing coastal organizations that were built on volunteerism, and continue to rely on it here on the Coast. At the moment, many are desperately trying to find new recruits.

One essential organization that is in desperate need of volunteers right now is Vancouver Coastal Health’s Sunshine Coast Volunteer program. The VCH volunteer department coordinates a number of programs the Coast cannot live without. This includes the Volunteer Drivers program — which helps get people, many of them seniors, to their medical appointments locally and in the Vancouver-area — and the Meals on Wheels program, whose drivers get meals to people who rely on them, from Gibsons to Halfmoon Bay.

The VCH volunteer team told me that while usually they rely on a team of 20 drivers, they are currently working at half capacity. The consequences of this shortage is quite shocking. The volunteer team told me that due to lack of availability, many people simply cannot get to Vancouver-area appointments or surgeries, anything from routine to complex to life-saving surgeries. As a result, people are having to forego, cancel or postpone appointments. For so many on the Coast, without this service, there is literally no one else they can ask, and affording to pay a taxi or private service to do this is not an option.

Consequences to the Meals on Wheels program as a result of a lack of drivers means vital meals people rely on are getting delivered late or with more difficulty. For many, these may be their only regular meals.

VCH’s Sunshine Coast Volunteer services says if they could start with anywhere from 5-10 new drivers between the two programs (sometimes people volunteer for both), it would make an incredible difference. I was told that if the number of drivers does not change by mid-September, VCH’s local volunteer program will be at a crisis point. I’m also told that right now, the need for drivers is highest on Mondays and Tuesdays. To find out more about volunteering with VCH Volunteer programs, and any criteria for applying, you can call them directly at: 604-885-8517.

Of course, there are so many places on the Coast that would benefit from your time….sometimes as little as two hours per week can make a huge difference. Think about it: that’s the same amount of time as two or three Netflix shows per week. If you have kids, maybe there are some places you can bring your kids with you. So many key social services and do-good organizations on the Coast have been able to offer services, run programs or events because of the generosity of volunteers. Whether these are front-line volunteer roles, behind the scenes, or those who sit on various boards, there are so many ways to lend a hand.

The District of Sechelt is always in need of event volunteers; Sort cans at Habitat for Humanity; Join the Parent Advisory Committees for your local schools; Volunteer with a Rotary or Lions Club who are always taking on new and interesting projects in the community; The Sunshine Coast Healthcare Auxiliary is another good one (help their thrift store, medical equipment loan cupboard or otherwise….I actually noticed they have little sign up forms right when you walk into the thrift store on Cowrie St.); Find a youth organization to support; or call up an organization to offer your expertise like graphic design or marketing!

It’s worth saying that the Resource Centre is always in need of people with compassionate listening skills, customer service and front desk experience who are willing to commit to a two-hour shift/week at our front desk, as the first point of contact for clients.

It makes sense that many volunteers are traditionally seniors. Obviously these COVID-times have been challenging times for many long-term senior volunteers as well. As many of these seniors continue to take their much-deserved leave from those positions for various reasons, there are huge gaps to fill. All the more reason that this is a key time to join the next generation of Sunshine Coast volunteers. Why else should you volunteer? Meet new people outside of your regular circles, support a good cause, and keep the valuable organizations that make the Sunshine Coast a place worth living in, running.

Angie Theilmann is an information and referral specialist at the Sunshine Coast Resource Centre, your community information hub. The Resource Centre is open Monday to Thursday 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Appointments are recommended to be sure we are available to help you. Contact us: [email protected] or 604-885-4088.