Lake Country Health Planning Society, located on Main Street. (Corinne Remple photo)

Younger volunteers needed at Lake Country health centre to drive seniors to Vernon appointments

The centre, which reopened July 13, is short on volunteers due to pandemic-related protocols

A recently reopened health centre in Lake Country is in need of volunteer drivers to support local seniors throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lake Country Community Health Resource Centre reopened its doors to clients on July 13.

It also rebooted a program in which volunteer drivers assist seniors living at home with transportation, grocery and prescription pickup, among other errands.

The program isn’t limited to supporting the elderly: other clients include single mothers, people who are immunocompromised or anyone else in need of a safe conveyance.

However, due to one of the program’s modifications for returning to service during the pandemic, the centre can no longer use volunteers over the age of 65 because of their increased risk of contracting the novel coronavirus.

READ MORE: B.C. gets $2 billion in latest COVID-19 federal aid package

As executive director Corinne Remple explains, the challenge is that people in the senior demographic are most likely to volunteer for the program in the first place.

“A lot of our volunteers are over the age of 60,” said Remple, who added it’s a challenge that likely exists in organizations across the country during the pandemic.

“That’s kind of the pool of individuals who are at home and maybe have the means or the time to volunteer and provide support for programs like this.”

With the program now down to just three drivers, younger volunteers are required to keep it afloat.

“We don’t have enough volunteer drivers to accommodate the number of requests that we’re getting from these elderly residents who are at home,” Remple said.

Lake Country seniors without personal transportation rely on the program to get doctor’s appointments in Vernon or Kelowna.

“I don’t know what it would cost to take a taxi into Kelowna if you have a chemo or specialist appointment, but it’s beyond the means of a lot of people who are on a fixed income,” Remple said.

READ MORE: COVID-19: Okanagan medical labs to reopen by appointment

The Health Resource Centre was closed in mid-March, and its reopening comes with enhanced protocols for maintaining the safety of clients and staff.

Operated by the Lake Country Health Society, the community-based program also offers an outreach program whereby volunteers connect with seniors isolating at home, checking on their well-being as needed.

Fortunately, that program has received an abundance of support from the community.

“We have around 80 clients who are in need of supports, and we were able to match them with local volunteers, which was amazing,” Remple said.

To volunteer with the Lake Country Health Resource Centre, call 778-215-5247.

Brendan Shykora
Reporter, Vernon Morning Star
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