Would you become a Snow Star?

·4 min read

With the snowy season well underway, the Snow Stars Program is looking to recruit volunteers. The program, which has been around for at least twenty years, maybe more, matches community volunteers with the address of someone who needs assistance in removing the snow as it falls. FCSS Program Coordinator for the Town of Whitecourt, Fay Arcand, said the program helps those who cannot physically clear the snow from having to worry about getting snowed in.

“They aren’t just seniors but also people that have physical impairments that would be a barrier to them removing the snow. The need was recognized to help keep seniors and those with physical impairments in their homes and independent longer. We match volunteers with an address requesting the service, and that volunteer looks after that address for the season.”

Since the program is free, volunteers with shovels are critical because they make the whole possible. After signing up, volunteers receive an address. When it snows, they are responsible for clearing the essential pathways in a timely manner. “Volunteers clear the sidewalk to your house, the driveway, and the sidewalk in front of the house. It’s not for, say, the snow on your roof or the back deck. It’s just for the essential walkways.”

Over the years, Arcand said that both the need and the volunteer numbers have varied. “We have had a steady couple of volunteers throughout the years. One fellow and his son have been volunteering for about five years.” She said they have also worked with a few area schools. Students don’t receive a specific address but rather walk about in a residential area as a group and find someone to help. “We’ve had Hilltop volunteers and St. Mary’s and St. Joseph’s School volunteers. They find people in need, and we supply them with shovels and scrappers. We like to encourage volunteerism in the youth.”

Arcand said they have ten requests for snow removal from residents and that as the snow continues to fall, that number will likely go up. “There’s a bylaw that within three days of a snowfall, the snow has to be removed from sidewalks. We ask that volunteers get to their matched residence within that window or sooner if they can make it so that the resident isn’t isolated to where they can’t get out of their home. That’s another reason that we have this program so that we can keep them being involved in the community by being able to get out of their home safely.”

On top of bringing together volunteers to help those who need it, the program also encourages people to get out into their neighbourhoods. “We want to make awareness of being neighbourly and connecting with those who live around you so that you can see if a person is in need and recognize when someone needs help. You don’t necessarily have to register as a Snow Star, and your neighbour or someone near you doesn’t have to register for the program. If you see a person, whether they are elderly or have a physical impairment, and they need your help, volunteer yourself and be a good neighbour,” explained Arcand.

“Lots of times, the homeowner will come out and say hello and say thank you. Volunteers are vetted so that if the senior is vulnerable, then they are in safe hands. One volunteer and his son have shovelled at the same address for the past five years. They have built a little relationship with the homeowner through that time. It’s nice to know that the seniors have that interaction with people and that the family volunteering is giving back and doing so with their children.”

Arcand said, for her, having people call in to offer their services and having those call in because they need help and facilitating that for them is great. “It doesn’t always work that we have enough volunteers, but it’s great when it does work out. When a senior calls, they often don’t want to ask for help, but they do need the help. It feels great to know that this is building up a community of giving back and that the senior or person with physical impairments can stay in their home longer and be safe. It’s a nice program to give back to the community. You are volunteering on the ground level and helping someone stay in their home, safer, longer. It’s a wonderful thing.” To add your name as a volunteer with the Snow Star Program, please call Community Services at 780-778-6300.

Serena Lapointe, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Whitecourt Press

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting