TRURO HEIGHTS- With more than 300 transactions with clients each month, the volunteers are the backbone of the Canadian Red Cross at the Truro office.
Volunteers are the first face clients through the door see, and usually the ones they deal with most. And it’s the 20-24 volunteers that are essential in the day-to-day operations.
“They are essential to running this office,” said Raye Leier, the service centre coordinator with the office located on the Truro Heights Road. “They keep our doors open and allow our staff to do their organizational duties. Our volunteers have their hands in pretty much everything. They’re our frontline people and all have great skills to offer.”
With three fulltime employees – Leier and two bed loan technicians – a lot of the administration, computer, and cleaning duties are done by volunteers. Some of those volunteers have years of experience – think 15 years giving back to the organization – and many are newcomers.
“My husband came in to pick up some equipment for a friend of ours and saw a note about volunteering,” said Lynne Dorland, who has been volunteering for about a year with her husband, Bob. “We do a lot of volunteer work – mostly volunteering at Souls Harbour – but this is an additional one for us. It’s so rewarding, and we don’t know if we’ll ever need the equipment like what’s available here.”
It’s through the Dorlands that Ruth Pulsifer started lending a hand at the office as well.
The two women like to spend their time out back, cleaning and servicing the equipment that’s available on loan.
“It’s nice to make a difference,” said Pulsifer, adding it was Lynne who asked if she wanted to sign on as a volunteer.
With Bob on the front desk and Lynne out back, the Dorlands and Pulsifer put in about four hours each week. However if there’s a lot of equipment needing cleaned or tended to, they will often add in more hours.
“It’s not hard work,” said Dorland. “We’re given proper cleaning products, too.”
Along with the cleaning, those working on the equipment actually take the pieces apart, inspect them, clean them, place them to dry, and then they are put back together once dry. Any repairs needed are marked and if the volunteers aren’t able to repair it, it’s sent off to a technician.
The Health Equipment Loan Program, or HELP, is one many still don’t know exist.
“I don’t think a lot of people know they can come here and get a loan of equipment for free,” said Leier. “It’s a wonderful program for everybody, and the only condition is you have to have a referral from a health care professional. It doesn’t matter if you have the resources for equipment or not. It makes it great for those people without the money to purchase the equipment.”
The program, which is a three-month loan program, has a wide variety of mobility and bathing aids available. Leier said because it’s done in partnership with a health care professional, clients are able to access safe equipment for their specific needs. The organization also works in conjunction with occupational and physiotherapists to ensure clients get the equipment they need.
“We see all walks of life, and all the different needs of clients,” she said.
Along with HELP, the Red Cross offers a bed loan program in the northern region where clients are able to access a hospital bed, free of charge. The technicians set up, take care of, and dismantle the beds for clients. There’s also a long-term care specialized equipment program with about 12 local facilities. Equipment – predominantly wheelchairs – are designed for a client’s specific needs.
In the summertime, Red Cross offers a PFD loan program, where clients can borrow lifejackets and other personal floatation devices for free.
“With our community health programs and bed program, those are the most active,” said Leier. “We are on the road daily for the bed loan program.”
The Canadian Red Cross also has its Disaster Management program, which assists people after major disasters, such as fires and flooding. They help on the local and national levels, and often deploy a team around the world, for example after a hurricane.
While the organization has a good balance of volunteers, Leier said they are always looking for more.
“The big thing is that there’s always things to do and it’s always nice to have new faces around,” she said. “I cross-train our volunteers where I can, so not to limit them to just one thing. It’s important to know the different facets of the organization, and I always try to tailor to what the volunteer wants to do.”
The volunteers range from high school students to those in their 80’s. Some are massage therapists or retired teachers, while others are former bankers, a pastor, or water specialists.
“They have a wide array of backgrounds and cover a broad spectrum. You don’t have to have a health background. All our volunteers have unique skills and personalities they bring to the table. That’s what makes it work.”
For more information about the services offered, or volunteering, call the office at 902-895-3894. March was Red Cross Month; April is Volunteer Month. Volunteer application forms can also be found online at redcross.ca/volunteer.