When heavy snow blanketed Metchosin in January, a number of seniors needed help, including 99-year-old Charlie Crenna.
Crenna doesn’t live alone, but snow made it so his round-the-clock caregivers could not get up or down his driveway.
It was then that Ed Bennington received a call asking for help. He lives a short distance away and happens to be the “pod” co-ordinator for the District. Metchosin is divided into 40 pods or areas, for emergency situations.
“I have a little tractor and figured I’d see what I could do,” Bennington said.
With his Kubota tractor he cleared as much snow as he could. With uneven terrain surrounding Crenna’s home, he couldn’t clear it all, but other neighbours stepped up to help.
“This is just basically what you do. You look after the people in your neighbourhood,” Bennington said. “The whole idea of the pods is to check in on people.”
Vince Santucci, Crenna’s neighbour brought his own small tractor to help and Crenna’s maintenance man Jeremy Clare and neighbour Brian Stewart helped with shovels. Crenna’s friend Dennis Josephson came with a plow.
Together the men cleared the snow around Crenna’s home.
“It was really wonderful. I appreciated it very much,” said Crenna, a director of senior care with the Metchosin Community Association.
This welcome but ad hoc system of neighbours helping seniors is driving the community association and the Metchosin Emergency Program to work together on identifying and creating a list of seniors and other vulnerable people in the district.
During recent storms, MCA board member Betty Hildreth and other volunteers opened up the Metchosin Community House for people whose homes lost power. But they also called and checked up on people they knew may be vulnerable during a storm.
Meanwhile, other residents reached out for help though the Metchosin Emergency Program and the fire hall.
Some calls for help included an elderly couple who couldn’t get through their driveway to get to the hospital, an elderly woman looking for help light a pilot light, and a senior who needed help out of the driveway on his way to hospice.
“Driveways are a big issue here with or without snow,” said Stephanie Dunlop, Metchosin fire chief and emergency program co-odinator.
Hildreth took a call at the community house from staff at the Royal Jubilee hospital looking for a ride for a Metchosin man to get home from the hospital, which meshed with the group’s car ride program.
The MCA and Metchosin emergency crews want people to call for help if they need it, but not to abuse the generosity of others.
“We are not in the business of cleaning people’s driveways,” Dunlop said. The program is to help those who require urgent assistance, she said, such as a patient on dialysis trapped at home but who needed to get to the hospital.
The MCA is also working on compiling a list of people in Metchosin with equipment that can be used for snow removal in an emergency. People willing to help out whether it be for a charge or volunteer can be put on the list at the Metchosin Community House.
While the emergency services and the MCA are working together, volunteers suggest residents keep checking up on their neighbours and anyone they know who might require extra assistance.
“People should become involved in their pod and set up a phone tree,” Hildreth said.
To get on the list of vulnerable people, call the Metchosin Community House at 250-478-5155.
Metchosin Emergency Program volunteers can be reached 24 hours a day for those who require immediate, urgent assistance at 250-883-4472.