Volunteers slow to return from COVID-19 hiatus, P.E.I. organizations say

·2 min read
Hayley VanIderstine, the activities co-ordinator at The Mount Continuing Care Community, sits with residents Harry Kielly, middle, and Ron Irving.  (Laura Meader/CBC - image credit)
Hayley VanIderstine, the activities co-ordinator at The Mount Continuing Care Community, sits with residents Harry Kielly, middle, and Ron Irving. (Laura Meader/CBC - image credit)

COVID-19 restrictions may have been lifted in most settings across the Island, but community organizations who depend on volunteers say the pandemic is still having an impact on how people spend their time.

Hayley VanIderstine, the activities co-ordinator at The Mount Continuing Care Community in Charlottetown, said the number of volunteers on their roster has gone down since the start of the pandemic.

"I think a lot of people are hesitant right now to volunteer just because, A, they don't want to get sick themselves; going into any public space is a risk right now. And B, they don't want to be the person to bring anything into the home and put our residents at risk."

Harry Kielly said he and other residents look forward to activities like the chair workouts, which are run by volunteers.

"I need the activity," he said. "I have Parkinson's. I need to keep moving and it's certainly helpful."

Whenever VanIderstine organizes an event, she said, fewer residents than normal can attend because there aren't enough volunteers..

"Taking residents to and from activities or helping with outings or even just visiting the people that don't come out of their rooms as often — those gaps are really starting to show up more."

Looking for 20 volunteers

The Canadian Red Cross on P.E.I. is also looking for about 20 volunteers to add to its ranks.

Provincial manager Corrine Hendricken-Eldershaw said the need is greatest in the charity's Equipment Loan Program (ELP) and teams trained to respond in emergencies.

"We've had great success with the Friendly Calls program because that's new; it's a remote experience that allows people to be socially included in the community to prevent social isolation," she said.

Laura Meader/CBC
Laura Meader/CBC

"However, with the ELP program and emergency management program, we can always use more volunteers, certainly, as we continue to expand."

Emergency management volunteers work with people who have lost their homes due to fire, floods or other disasters.

ELP volunteers assist with seniors aging at home or people recovering at home after surgery, Hendricken-Eldershaw said — taking some pressure off the hospital system by decreasing the length of hospital stays. "The equipment loan volunteers are making sure you have the equipment you need and it's delivered to your home."

Public nursing homes are facing similar shortages, with about half the number of their usual volunteers, according to Health P.E.I.

"Were just in the midst of trying to build that back up, so we can offer more programming, we can do more one-to-ones," said Cheryl Young, recreation co-ordinator at the Prince Edward Home.