The Good Morning Program has been operating in Vernon for 42 years.
Run through the Canadian Mental Health Association, it’s a free telephone service offered to individuals living within the Greater Vernon area. It’s offered 365 days a year to seniors and people living with high health risks, who live alone or feel isolated. It enables these individuals to safely live independently longer.
The main purpose of the daily phone call is to offer a social connection. Volunteers are trained to listen, provide support and offer referrals whenever necessary. Program coordinators consider it a success, their work appreciated.
“It’s so uplifting to wake up to your friendly and cheerful voices, to know someone cares and wants to know we are okay and that you are volunteering your time is extra special,” wrote one participant, who wishes to remain anonymous.
“Good morning callers, thank you for all your kindness during this past year. I am always looking forward to your call and little chat,” wrote another.
The program currently has 31 participants and nine volunteers. Paula Guidi is the program coordinator for both the Good Morning Program and the crisis hotline. She says that there’s a need for more volunteers — especially in the summer months when people go on vacation.
“Some of our volunteers are really dedicated and one has been volunteering since 1998. They’re steady and they’ve gotten to know our Good Morning participants, they recognize their voices and it’s really wonderful,” she said. “But sometimes they need a break or they go on holidays and so this year we’re falling short and we’re having some spaces where we need some volunteers to make those calls.”
Guidi says she hopes for two things: awareness of the program and awareness of volunteer opportunities for anyone looking to give back to the community.
Despite the need for volunteers, Guidi also said that they are still able to take on more participants. Volunteers will simply need to be added based on the need and the number of clients. She urges anyone who wants to take part in the program to get in touch and sign up for the program as studies have shown a small connection like a daily phone call can increase happiness which, in turn, allows individuals to remain healthy and live longer.
Participants can be referred to the program by care providers, family, friends or by self-referral.
Calls are made daily starting just before 8 a.m. and concluding around 11 a.m.
“We would love to hear from anyone who feels as though they have good listening and communication skills to join our team,” added Guidi. “Both programs [crisis hotline and the GMP] are a great way to give back to our community and we look forward to hearing from anyone who might be a good fit.”
Volunteers are trained thoroughly on the routine and the procedure when/if an individual doesn’t answer the call at their allotted time. When this situation arises, the volunteer will continue to call the person every 15 minutes for two hours. If there is still no answer, an emergency contact — this can be family, a friend, someone who manages their building or a neighbour — who will go in and check on them. If they are still unreachable, the volunteer is instructed to call the hospital to see if they have been admitted and then take necessary precautions and contact emergency services to do a wellness check and make sure the individual is safe and healthy.
“People want to live at home in their own home longer so this gives them the opportunity to do that in a safer way,” said Guidi.
Anyone interested in volunteering or participating in the program should visit the website at www.vernon.cmha.bc.ca or call the Canadian Mental Health Association at 250-542-3114.
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