Even before the pandemic, many seniors in Southern Alberta were alone and sometimes isolated by a variety of reasons.
Keep in Touch Program is a program which initially began in southwest Alberta in the spring with Volunteer Lethbridge. Its goal was to connect those people who are isolated, lonely and vulnerable with others outside their normal realm through phone calls with volunteers. These volunteers would spend some time talking to participants about whatever they want including seniors reminiscing about past times.
Fast forward a handful of months later to August and the Community Foundation of Southeastern Alberta launched its own version of the program “to support vulnerable residents in Medicine Hat and area in the wake of the pandemic.”
Volunteer coordinator Sydney Ratzlaff, who initially was signed on to help with Volunteer Lethbridge’s program but has done such a good job, is now helping with the CFSEA’s similar initiative.
“We wanted to connect participants who were feeling lonely or disconnected and provide them with a friendly phone call,” explains Ratzlaff adding if there is an opportunity, volunteers can do some research for participants or do some referral work for them.
Ratzlaff says there a thorough screening program for those wanting to volunteer to make the phone calls.
“Calls are not screened so we ensure the volunteers will be (good),” explains Ratzlaff. “We want (volunteers) to be a wide range of people. Ask good questions, someone who is encouraging and can have conversations.”
The program provides training for volunteers so they will be equipped to respond to various situations and personality types.
Volunteer Lethbridge started the program and wanted to see how it would go. They matched their target goal of 10 matches with 10 participants and 15 volunteers making the calls explained Ratzlaff.
“Alof to he volunteer response was that they wanted to give back to the community; a lot want to help seniors in general,” explained Ratzlaff. She says the goal is similar in Medicine Hat and the southeast corner. “We want to keep it growing. Come winter more people will become even more isolated. More people will be participating (as clients).”
In southeast Alberta, a grant from the Family Community Support Services in Medicine Hat allowed them to offer this program.
Ratzlaff says there is no limit or target numbers for how far they want the program to expand. They just want to help as many people as they can.
“It’s so nice talking to my Keep In Touch volunteer. I talk her ear off, and she listens and makes good suggestions. I look forward to her calls. They have made a big difference to me,” says a Keep In Touch participant in a prepared statement.
A short video by Volunteer Lethbridge’s Connie-Marie Riedlhuber on Volunteer Lethbridge’s website, has her describing herself as someone who grew up on a farm in Southern Alberta and describes all the benefits of the Keep In Touch program.
Call 403-332-4320 or email us at email@example.com
The registration form for those in southwest Alberta can be had at: https://volunteerlethbridge.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/Seniors-Keep-In-Touch-Registration-Form.pdf
In southeast Alberta, call CFSEA at 403-527-9038 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.