Seniors Helping Seniors: expanding horizons

The Senior Helping Seniors Program continues to be a huge success in Fort St. James.

  • Wed Oct 26th, 2016 7:00am
  • News

Barbara Latkowski

Caledonia Courier

The Seniors Helping Seniors Program continues to be a huge success in Fort St. James.

Judy Greenaway, one of the co-founders and the program’s administrator, is thrilled with the support received from the community and from the volunteers involved.

“Our volunteers are amazing,” Greenaway said. “This community never fails to surprise me.”

It was about 5 years ago that members of the Stuart Lake Association made a strategic plan alongside the District of Fort St. James.

The plan identified a need for transportation for seniors specifically in Fort St. James and this is when The Seniors Helping Seniors Program came to be.

“There was an obvious need for transportation options for the seniors in Fort St. James,” Greenaway said.

“We are so thankful to the community for all of their support. It’s brought new life to our seniors here.”

The Seniors Helping Seniors Program provides free transportation to those who face mobility challenges by providing grocery delivery, transportation to medical appointments and to social and wellness events in and outside of town including Vanderhoof and Prince George.

“Social interaction for our seniors is an important part of their well-being,” Greenaway said.” We are so proud of our service.”

The Mayor of Fort St. James, Mayor Robert MacDougall couldn’t agree more.

The program is now running seamlessly and other communities want to know how Fort St. James did it.

“We are now a model for other towns. They are now looking at implementing a program like ours,” MacDougall said.

Last year, MacDougall attended the Highway 16 Symposium in Smithers, BC.

Over 90 participants addressed their challenges and possible opportunities and the successful opportunity presented by the Mayor was the Seniors Helping Seniors Program.

“Attending this meeting of community leaders and government representatives has provided me with the opportunity to hear some of the challenges faced by residents along Highway 16, present the Seniors Helping Seniors Program that is currently operating in Fort St. James and to encourage government to look at ways to assist all of us in finding solutions such as this,” MacDougall said.

And in Fort St. James, this program has been much more than just a simple solution.

“People have really dug in here especially with the Seniors Helping Seniors Program,” said Chester Hiebert, vice-president of the Seniors Association.

“The quality of any community is based on their volunteerism.”

With two buses running and 14 volunteer drivers, most of who are seniors themselves, there are about 114 clients currently registered.

From January to July 2015, the service provided approximately 309 rides to appointments and about 219 separate trips driving about 25,000 km.

Dennis Ransom is a one of the volunteer drivers.

“I go to Prince George quite a bit,” Ransom said. “I often have to take people to medical appointments or to the hospital.”

“I love it. And I love the people. I enjoy their company and I learn so much from them.”

The Seniors Helping Seniors Program is funded through the District of Fort St. James, the Reginal District of Bulkley Nechako and the United Way Better Homes Project.

What was once just a simple idea has now become a reality and one that continues to bring community together in Fort St. James.

“For such a small town, our horizons have expanded,” Hiebert said.