Andy Brodie looks at his volunteer work this way: “It’s 40 minutes out of my day and it makes the week for her.” He drives a participant in one of the Family Resource Centre’s seniors’ social programs to and from the meeting, an event she and others like her who have no transportation could not attend otherwise.
Volunteer driving is just one of the centre’s programs, as well as the board of directors, that relies on volunteers.
“Without the volunteers, we would have to drastically reduce what we can offer and the need is getting greater and greater,” said executive director Jan Schulz.
“The economy plays a role and there are the stresses of modern-day life. Many people can’t afford to pay for private counseling but we can help people deal with many issues.”
There are two programs with a sliding fee scale and the remainder of the programs, including parent and family education, are free to participants. There may be a small fee for groups.
The board of directors oversees the centre’s operations.
“We represent the stakeholders, just like in any corporation. Here, the stakeholders are the public and the government,” said Paul Filippi, an engineer who has been a board member for 12 years and served on a number of other boards in the community.
“I think the centre fills a need and provides a valuable service and I am going to be here for as long as I can be useful. We meet once a month and there is some committee work but it’s not a big time commitment, maybe four to five hours a month.”
Filippi recruited Deanna Jinjoe, whose background is in insurance, four years ago at a Rotary Club meeting.
“I knew that the Family Resource Centre did counseling and that it was something I wanted to know more about and support. Sometimes we have staff members come to the meetings and tell us more about the programs, which is very interesting. I think there are times in every life when people have to reach out for help and that’s why the centre is here. It’s very rewarding to be a part of this,” she said.
The centre is looking for volunteers for the board of directors, as well as for the community support volunteers, senior support volunteers and volunteer drivers programs.
Joy (community support volunteers do not use their last names with clients) has just finished the training session and has started to see clients, as well as co-facilitating one of the support groups.
“We see people about a variety of issues. Relationships probably tops the list, but we are here for just about anything that could be troubling people and we make referrals if necessary,” she said. “I found the training to be very interesting and it prepared me well. People come for help when they are prepared to make some changes and what we can do is help them gain clarity about what they want to do.”
She also makes call-backs to see how people are doing after they have had the support sessions and is pleased to hear a lot of positive feedback. The community support volunteers do not offer solutions but help people with resources and finding their own strengths and ways to deal with things.
“The program training does a great job of preparing you and there is on-going mentoring from the professional counselors at the centre so you are not left on your own. My work is flexible so I can fit in the sessions, which are usually an hour long. It is a large commitment but it is something that is needed in the community,” said Jason, who has been a volunteer for two years.
The next community support volunteer training starts Oct. 2 with evening sessions every Tuesday and the first Thursday of each month. There is a break for Christmas and then the sessions continue until April. The training costs $125 to cover the cost of materials. It is important to register early as there is an interview process to help potential volunteers decide if the program is right for them.
Margie Bagg and Jack Bewley have just graduated from the spring training session for the Senior Support Volunteer program.
“I see my client once a week for two to three hours. Clients and volunteers are matched up so that they have something in common. We go out together or just visit. She is a joy, a total joy. I would recommend this program to anyone who would like an enjoyable way to give back to the community,” said Bagg.
Bewley also has a new client.
“I like the way this is set up so that there is a support system to take care of other issues so I can focus on being a friend. We go out for coffee, or maybe shopping once a week for a couple of hours. I know he really appreciates it. The training was great. I was amazed by how much I learned from it,” he said.
Family Resource Centre coordinator of volunteer services, Karen Swales, said the volunteer visits help the clients stay positive and active socially involved.
“All of the volunteers mean so much to our programs,” she said.
The next program for senior support volunteers takes place Wednesday and Thursday mornings for eight weeks starting Oct. 3.
The volunteer drivers do not have to take the training program but attend an interview and orientation session. There is a mileage payment for the volunteer drivers. There is always a need for more drivers, especially for relief or short-notice drivers so the regular volunteers can have time for holidays. These drivers may be called only once every few months for one trip or for a couple of weeks while someone is away.
“I was new to the community three-and-a-half years ago and was looking for a way to help. I dropped into the centre and found this. It has worked out really well,” said Brodie.
The cut-off date for application for volunteer positions, including board members, is Sept. 5. For more information call Swales at 250-545-3390 or see www.vernonfrc.ca.