When a Thornhill resident and his wife found out about local seniors struggling to pay for prescriptions, they decided to do something about it and have been quietly helping out in their own way ever since.
Ron Ramsey, 70, and his wife Mavis, 61, with help from Ron’s brother Ted, have been collecting cans, bottles and scrap metal for two years now, turning hard work into dollars to help pay for prescriptions.
This is not the Ramseys first volunteer effort in Terrace. They had already been raising money for the REM Lee foundation over the past 10 years by preparing bunches of kindling to sell at the Copperside Foods on Hwy16.
It was in January of 2009, while the Ramseys were at Mills Memorial Hospital dropping off kindling proceeds, that staff at the hospital mentioned the large number of seniors who enter the hospital sick every January because they cannot afford to fill their prescriptions.
Depending on income, every year starting in January, people using PharmaCare are responsible for paying their first series of prescriptions. Once they reach a certain dollar amount, called a deductible, PharmaCare will kick in and help with further prescription costs.
“A lot of our seniors don’t have that extra money,” Ron said. “It’s a sad thing out there for those people, I’ve been bottom of the barrel before, too. I know what it’s like.”
Since January 2009, the Ramseys have helped people in Terrace fill their prescriptions to the tune of $12,332.91.
Ron says the help is open to people of all ages, and they plan to find more and more people in the community who have a hard time paying for their prescriptions.
Ted explains his brother raises money in a unique way, from the bottom up.
“A dime at a time he helps a lot of people,” Ted said.
The Ramseys decided to put control of money they raise into the hands of local pharmacists and doctors.
This includes pharmacists at Shoppers Drug Mart and Save On Foods, and Dr. Geoffrey Appleton and Dr. Jaco Fourie. Ron explains they made this decision to respect people’s privacy, and because doctors and pharmacists know who needs assistance.
Denise Law is a pharmacist at Save On Foods and explains that because they are a small pharmacy, staff there do get to know patients very well.
“So when someone is having problems, we usually can pick up on that with our conversations with them,” she said.
One indication is when a patient asks to only fill part of a prescription. This is something that ends up costing a patient more money in the long run, as medication purchased in smaller units is more expensive, she explained.
Law says that January is a tough time for seniors and single parents. “They’ve just gone through Christmas, they’re trying to make ends meet, and now their deductibles have to be paid,” she said.
Law added there are patients with multiple health needs who end up picking and choosing which of their medications they can afford.
She said when they see this happening they offer to make up the balance needed, and then send the bill to Ron who takes it out of the Ramsey Fundraising account.
Law said the work of Ron and Mavis has made a difference to many people in Terrace.
“It’s absolutely heartwarming that there are people like him out there that are willing to spend the time and effort to make it possible for these people to maintain their life,” she said. Law said she has seen seniors walk away in tears because of help they have received.
The effort has been so successful that the Ramseys no longer do it alone. They have joined with Volunteer Terrace, who assist them by acting as a contact for anyone looking to donate or volunteer. Members of Volunteer Terrace also help Ron sort bottles and cans.
The RCMP and the Terrace Rod and Gun Club assist by donating all of their brass cartridges, which Ron takes in to a local scrap yard where they give him money for the metals he brings in.
Business is also getting on board and some have sent out an information letter from Mavis and Ron asking staff for recyclables and cans and bottles from office lunches and snack.
Donations are also accepted on an individual basis, and Ron says if anyone has bottles or cans for them to let Volunteer Terrace know and he will come pick them up.
Although Ron may soon have help as more than 50 individuals and businesses have now signed up.
Currently, money raised is kept under the name of Ramsey Fundraising. Because help for Ron’s cause is growing he said they plan to change the name of their efforts to Helping Hands of the Pacific Northwest.
And while Ron admits there are lots of other groups raising money in Terrace by collecting bottles, he believes in the importance of his volunteer efforts.
“Health first, everything else second,” he explained.
This is not the first time Ron and Mavis have initiated a community effort. When they lived in Hinton, Alberta, they raised more than $33,000 in three months for a palliative care room and $7,000 to help buy medications.
Their efforts were so successful that Ron said following that, they were bombarded with groups offering to pay them for their services.
He said that this time they are trying to avoid that situation by directing all calls to Volunteer Terrace.
“We want to get the word out there so more people can be helped,” Ron says, explaining that is the only reason he is speaking of his efforts publicly.
Ron does most of his work in an empty house and shop near his home in Thornhill, which was donated to his cause by a local business. For the first eight years he cut kindling by hand with a hatchet, now Ron uses a machine.
In the empty house he has set up a chair, and a station for bundling cut kindling. Floors are lined with sorted bottles, and large, clear plastic bags hold pop cans – carefully cleaned and counted to 200 per bag.
Ron explains he and his wife consider their work to be a simple principle of the way all people should live their lives – help your neighbor and give to your community.
It’s something Ron said he learned from his parents who survived the Great Depression, and came from a time where everyone helped everyone, or people didn’t make it.
“There’s a lot of people who need help and that’s why we do it. We just want to help out neighbours and help our friends, that’s all,” Ron said.