In a year of isolation, upheaval and fear, volunteers are the superheroes coming to save the day. And while they may not have a proton pack or wear spandex, they will show up on your doorstep with a friendly smile and groceries in hand. As part of National Volunteer Week, the Social Action team connected with Volunteer Strathcona to learn more about the important role community volunteers have played during the pandemic.
Volunteer Strathcona has been involved in the community for over 44 years, with a mandate to connect volunteers with opportunities and enable local organizations to meet social needs in our community. Mary, Program Director at Volunteer Strathcona, shared that at the start of the pandemic, many seniors in the community had to isolate, making tasks such as picking up groceries and prescriptions very difficult. Volunteer Strathcona quickly responded to the emerging needs and put together a delivery program. Just as quickly, there was an outpour of residents reaching out to volunteer and help out where they could.
“It really happened in the moment – the incredible outreach from our community is what kicked off the process of developing this project. People wanted to help and didn’t know how, and Volunteer Strathcona was the first place they went to.” Volunteers could do delivery tasks like grocery shopping and picking up prescriptions, virtual support for technology needs such as scanning documents and setting up video calls, and small household fixes outside of the home such as mowing the lawn, gardening and dog walking.
While addressing basic needs was critical, providing social connection was just as important. “It was remarkable just how much the community reached out during COVID-19 to find ways not only to help, but to connect”, Mary reflected “what started out as delivery tasks, ended up cultivating meaningful relationships.” The feedback received from seniors was so appreciative, “It’s not only about services, but the connection on a human level – it’s about having the opportunity to chat with someone and knowing somebody’s got their back.”
Andrea Harrison, a passionate volunteer with Volunteer Strathcona, was one of the community members who stepped up during COVID-19. We were able to ask Andrea about her experience volunteering:
How did you get involved with Volunteer Strathcona?
“When everything got shut down during COVID-19, I was looking for something to do. Volunteer Strathcona was looking for people, and I thought, "this will get me out of the house". If I’m already out grocery shopping, I might as well shop for someone else who needs it.”
What was your experience like volunteering this year?
“It has been great to meet new people. Both of my grandparents have passed away, so for me, it was nice to connect with seniors and get to know them. Last summer, I was able to help a senior with her garden. I love to garden, and I would just sit outside for hours weeding while visiting with her. The pandemic was such an eye-opener for me, to realize how important connection is and how much support is needed in our community. For isolated seniors, I could not imagine what they are going through - just to be able to say, ‘hi’ and ask how their day is goes a long way. It's important they feel somebody cares about them and they can get the help they need.”
For National Volunteer Week, Volunteer Strathcona wanted to give a special “thank you!” to everyone in both the rural and urban areas of Strathcona County, who take time out of their lives to make a difference in the community. For more information on how to volunteer or to learn more about all of the services Volunteer Strathcona has to offer, visit VolunteerStrathcona.ca.
Do you have a volunteer to celebrate for National Volunteer Week? Join the online conversation using the hashtags #scSocialAction and #NVW2021Strathco.