One of Burnaby’s smallest departments was lauded with praise for its hard work and service at a council meeting on April 3.
The citizen support services department, with seven staff members (Mayor Mike Hurley called it “small but mighty”), manages more than 200 volunteers over multiple programs for community health and independent living.
“The work that they (the department and volunteers) do looking after seniors in the community is quite fantastic,” Hurley said.
While the department operated throughout the pandemic, last year saw a “gradual re-start” of programs that had had to be suspended, according to a staff report.
“The volunteers were amazing,” department administrator Michele Wilson told council.
“Not only did they check in on their clients, but they also checked in on each other,” she said, adding over 1,500 volunteer hours last year were spent being a friend on the phone to isolated seniors.
Burnaby’s volunteer programs and 2022 feats
- Phone Buddies: City volunteers gave more than 1,500 hours last year to have a friendly phone call with seniors a few times a week. Volunteers who speak languages other than English served clients who don’t speak English, according to the department’s annual report.
- The Lunch Program: Volunteers drive seniors to Burnaby Mountain Golf Course for lunch to enjoy an afternoon with friends. 350 meals served in 2022; 600 rides given.
- Grocery shop-by-phone: Volunteers take seniors’ grocery orders over the phone and coordinate delivery with city staff. Volunteers shopped 2,603 grocery orders and $189,000-worth of groceries were delivered to Burnaby seniors.
- Volunteer Visitors: One-on-one visits for companionship, like going on walks, reading, writing letters or sharing life experiences. Begun July 2022, the program saw more than 730 hours visiting isolated seniors
- Shopping Buddies: Personal shopping for housebound seniors. Begun in June 2022, volunteers spent more than 300 hours helping seniors at local malls
- Burnaby Better at Home: Volunteers drive seniors to medical appointments and do light housekeeping. Services are provided on a sliding scale, and the city partnered with MOSAIC to better serve seniors who don’t speak English. In 2022, there were 3,950 housekeeping services and 155 rides to medical appointments.
During 2022 heat episodes, city staff and volunteers provided 4,471 wellness check-in calls.
The citizen support services department has also added Zoom interviews and online orientation, which gives “greater convenience” to volunteer applicants.
At the council meeting, Wilson gave thanks to the mayor and city councillors, whom she said donated to the department “to help cover the costs to produce and deliver fully-funded frozen meals to some of our housebound isolated seniors.”
“There were no photo ops, there were no splashy stories about what you did. You did it because you genuinely cared,” Wilson said.
She added: “I’m really proud of the volunteers and the staff for helping keep our seniors safe throughout 2022.”
National Volunteer Recognition Week this year is April 16 to 22.