Fort St. James has received funding from the “Better at Home” program, funded by the provincial government through United Way. The program, which assists seniors to stay in their own homes and maintain independence, is one that the District has long wanted to attract to the area, but they were continually told that there were no plans to roll it out any further for the time being.
“This year, however, they said they were going to expand to new communities in the north,” says District of Fort St. James Economic Development Officer Emily Colombo. Vanderhoof and Fraser Lake have also received funding for the program, with Fraser Lake reporting to United Way on behalf of all three communities.
Colombo says that the $10,000 in funding will be used to support ongoing transportation services in the Fort, as well as occasional workshops and social activities. “Each community decides what services they want to offer, and our goal is to make our existing services sustainable,” says Colombo. “If we get more funding through the Better at Home program we might be able to offer more services.”
The transportation service—Seniors Helping Seniors—currently has 112 clients in Fort St. James. Twelve volunteer drivers have two minivans at their disposal, to take people to appointments in Vanderhoof, Fraser Lake, and Prince George. While many of the people using the service do so to access medical services in those communities, Colombo says that they can also pick up and drop off people at the Prince George airport or let people do some shopping, although medical appointments remain the priority.
Colombo acknowledges that it can be difficult to fit in people who want to go to Prince George to shop; which is why the District is trying to arrange a monthly shopping trip with the Stuart Lake Seniors’ Association. “It will be on the last Friday of the month starting in September, with a maximum of six people per trip.”
The transportation service can also be used around Fort St. James if people need a lift to go to the post office, get their hair done, or attend a scheduled appointment. There is also a grocery delivery each Monday and Friday, with clients indicating which day they need the service. The day before, a volunteer will phone and find out what groceries are needed, then purchase them and deliver them to the client, who reimburses the volunteer for the total cost. There’s no charge for the service, says Colombo, noting that for some of the clients the weekly arrival of the volunteer with groceries is the only check-in they get with another person.
The transportation and grocery delivery services are available to those living as far north as the railway tracks and as far south as Dog Creek. Most of the drivers are seniors themselves, who might have to make use of the services at some point in the future. “It’s their way of paying it forward,” says Colombo.
Seniors Helping Seniors is always looking for volunteers willing to drive, and for new clients. Anyone interested in the transportation service—including the shopping trips to Prince George—should contact Yvonne Same at (250) 996-8408, while anyone who would like to sign up for the grocery delivery should call Emily Colombo at (250) 996-8233.