Seniors left out in the cold when government funding dried up for the Time Out program are now basking in an outpouring of community-based care and comfort spearheaded by the Mount Cheam Lions Club.
“I think it’s wonderful what they’re doing for us,” said 84-year-old Helen Rempel.
She said the hot meals, the bingo and dart games, the exercise and entertainment provided by volunteers is “a real pick-me-up” for seniors who might otherwise feel isolated and alone.
“It’s absolutely gorgeous,” she said.
Last January, the Chilliwack Seniors Resources Society announced it couldn’t continue operating the Time Out program after the Fraser Health Authority chopped in half its share of the $142,000 budget.
But in March, the Mount Cheam Lions Club decided to try out a scaled-down “coffee-and-cookies” version of the program – and were surprised by the interest shown by seniors.
“It went over like fireworks on the First of July,” said club spokesman Allen Hunt.
So the decision was made to offer a full program of hot lunch, bingo and dart games on Tuesdays, and with help from others in the community, a second day of exercise and entertainment on Thursdays was added.
“We found all sorts of people that were willing to help us along the way,” Hunt said. “It’s really developing a life of its own.”
The “wonderful” hot meals Rempel described are coming from student kitchens at the University of the Fraser Valley, and three student volunteers from the Chilliwack School District come to the Thursday program.
“The seniors just love these kids,” Hunt said.
And more people are volunteering for the program after they realize the difference they are making to the seniors, he said.
“I don’t think a lot of people realize how seniors can start to feel isolated after spouses and friends pass away,” he said. “It’s an opportunity for them to get out and socialize.”
Seniors who want more information about attending the program can call Paul Keating at 604-858-1894. Volunteers are asked to call the club at 604-792-3810.