“I don’t have a ton of volunteers, but the ones I do have are fabulous,” says Nancy Kendall, the program coordinator for Better at Home, based in an office on Railway Avenue in Ashcroft (but which will soon change; more about that later). “And I cannot say enough good things about my housekeepers,” she continues. “Each one goes above and beyond, and provides lots of extra services beyond housekeeping.
“I have to tell you about one person who is a housekeeper. She also volunteers for friendly visits, is a snow angel, does grocery shopping, and is also a volunteer driver.”
The program, which started here in 2013, provides assistance—such as light housekeeping, local transportation, light yard work, volunteer snow removal, assisted shopping, and friendly visits—to seniors in Ashcroft, Cache Creek, and Boston Flats; but Kendall says she can be somewhat flexible when it comes to defining “senior”.
“Technically a senior is someone aged 60 or up, but in certain circumstances we have had people in the program who are aged 50 and up,” she explains. “For example, someone had a medical issue and needed temporary help. Or if someone 50 or older had an ongoing medical issue that prevented them doing housework or yard work, I would take that into consideration.
“I love that we’re in a small town, because I have a lot more wiggle room.”
The number one demand, she says, is housekeeping. Although the snow-shovelling season is (hopefully) behind us, Kendall adds that more “snow angels” would also be welcome, especially in Cache Creek, where she only has two snow angel volunteers. And more drivers are always wanted, especially (again) in Cache Creek.
“I have two volunteers who live in Cache Creek, so it’s much easier to ask them to pick up people there, and drive them to Ashcroft and back. I would love to have two more drivers there, though.”
She says that she, and her volunteers, encourage use of the community bus within Ashcroft where possible. “If we don’t use it, we lose it. It’s only a toonie [to ride it]. I promote the community bus whenever I can.”
Kendall notes that the assisted grocery shopping is just that: assisted. “The volunteer picks up the client and takes them to the grocery store; we don’t shop for them.” She adds, however, that there is also some flexibility here. “The client can phone their order in to Safety Mart, pay for it in advance, and if there is a volunteer available they can pick up the bagged groceries. But we need at least a day’s notice for that.”
The program currently has between 55 and 60 clients, but Kendall says there is certainly room for more. The program is funded by the provincial government via the United Way, which distributes the funds to the various Better at Home programs in the province. Because of this, Kendall encourages anyone who does work—such as snow clearing—on an informal basis for a friend or neighbour register both parties as Better at Home volunteers and clients.
“We can use the stats. I report to the United Way, which then turns that over to the government. The better the stats, the more they see the service is needed. But people need to be registered with the program in order to use our services.”
The Equality Project in Cache Creek—which superficially seems similar to Better at Home—is mentioned.
“I think the Equality Project is absolutely wonderful,” says Kendall enthusiastically.
“We work extremely well together. I’ve phoned and referred people to them when the client wasn’t appropriate for our program, or we just couldn’t help. The Equality Project fills that void.
“And the Equality Project has called me and asked if we can help someone. We complement each other and fill gaps in the community. There’s no clash between the programs, and no competition. I’m really happy they’re here, filling a void for people who desperately need help.”
Kendall is excited about a forthcoming move that will see the Better at Home office move to a space in the Ashcroft HUB near Merv’s Gym at the rear of the building as of May 1.
“I’m extremely grateful to the Adamskis [from whom Kendall rents her present office] for their help,” she says.
“We’re a non-profit, and they’ve really helped us out. But I don’t need much office space, as I mostly go out to people.
“I’m very excited about working at the HUB,” she continues.
“It will be nice to have other faces around. One of the most exciting things will be partnering with some of the groups there.
“One person can only do so much, but if we get partner groups together it’s easier to do things.
“And it might encourage some people who are stuck in their houses to come in and check out what’s at the HUB. If we can all partner together and provide more, it will get even busier. It’s a wonderful place to spend the day, so no one has to be isolated.”
Kendall’s new office will offer plenty of parking on Government Street, and is all on one level, so it is easily accessible for those with mobility issues. She notes her proximity to Merv’s Gym.
“Maybe I’ll get some strong snow angels from there,” she laughs.
To contact Better at Home, call Kendall at (250) 453-9911, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.