Executive director Renee Lormé-Gulbrandsen of Oak Bay Volunteer Services from her home office. The non-profit organization that mostly serves older adults is facing high demands during the COVID-19 crisis and is in need of donations and volunteers. (Renee Lormé-Gulbrandsen Photo)

Revamped Oak Bay Volunteer Services in need of donations, volunteers

Non-profit stares down challenge of helping seniors amid COVID-19 crisis

After 40 years of providing support to some of the community’s most vulnerable people, Oak Bay Volunteers Services had to hit the brakes and re-evaluate its services in the face of COVID-19.

It’s a challenging time for an organization whose mandate is to mitigate the effects of isolation for seniors and people with disabilities, the very population that COVID-19 threatens most. In short, the onset of the novel coronavirus and B.C.’s sudden shutdown two weeks ago forced the organization to cancel all but the critical appointments for its 200 volunteers (many of whom are retired and are sheltering in place) and the 500 senior residents they help get groceries and deliver to appointments.

”Now we need to reach out to more people who might have had connections, who were able to get out of their home but now they can’t,” said executive director Renee Lormé-Gulbrandsen. “Now is the time that we need the community to step up with donations and also as volunteers.”

READ ALSO: Oak Bay Volunteer Services recognizes its volunteers

Revamped and ready, the agency is recruiting a new pool of volunteers with a new mandate of service, mainly a new volunteer base for shopping and delivery.

Traditionally, services included driving to appointments or the grocery store, visiting, walking or wheelchair pushes, reading and writing, phone call greetings, preparation of simple income tax returns, minor repairs and gardening.

Fortunately, while the agency had to cut all but the most critical services they also had clients cancelling their calls for service out of caution.

“We actually saw doctors canceling appointments and clients withdrawing the meetings,” Lormé-Gulbrandsen said. “It seemed to work out OK, we reached out to high-risk clients to make sure their needs were met, with a continuity of care for those clients with critical health needs.”

The community also stepped up, with family checking on family and neighbours checking on neighbours, which really eased the burden, Lormé-Gulbrandsen said.

“We are thankful for that. It gave us time to set the office up remotely while we worked behind the scenes to recalibrate the effort.”

That said, there was plenty of demand for Oak Bay Volunteer Services plus some misinformation about their role.

“We have a great relationship with mayor and council but we don’t work for them, we are independent,” Lormé-Gulbrandsen said.

READ MORE: New leader aims to grow Oak Bay Volunteer Services

“At this point we are a week from being able to deliver services and in the recruitment stage for volunteers,” Lormé-Gulbrandsen said. “Afterwards, when this [pandemic subsides] we’ll be back to serving people as normal.”

Due to COVID-19 the organization has a major need for volunteers under 60.

Volunteers will need to maintain separation from clients and will shift social meetings to social phone calls, and drives and visits are being pulled back. Shopping for groceries and medication remains crucial but will be done by delivery instead of by accompanying the client. They also need donations.

“We’re in a great place, excited to do this for people,” Lormé-Gulbrandsen said. “In a lot of ways it’s like developing a brand new organization from one that’s been running 40 years. Oak Bay has always stepped up with donations and now is the time we need them to do it again.”

reporter@oakbaynews.com


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Owner of Langford construction company gets nine months for sexual assault

Kyle Mostowy already spent time in prison for sexually assaulting employees

Victoria Clipper suspends services through April 2021

International travel restrictions, COVID-19 uncertainty lead to decision

Who is the average Sookie?

Statistics Canada, community members offer glimpse into who the people of Sooke are

Faulty janitorial equipment likely caused Saanich school fire

Saturday morning fire damaged roof of Strawberry Vale Elementary

Wage subsidy will be extended until December amid post-COVID reopening: Trudeau

Trudeau said the extension will ‘give greater certainty and support to businesses’

Fisherman snags barracuda off Vancouver Island in rare encounter

Ferocious fish, not native to Canada, was netted and released in Alberni Inlet

Tree planters get help with COVID-19 protective measures

Ottawa funds extra transportation, sanitizing for crews

Trudeau apologizes for not recusing himself from WE decision

He says his and his family’s longtime involvement with the WE organization should have kept him out of the discussions

Beverly Hills 90210 star’s family selling Vancouver Island Beach Resort

You can own Jason Priestley’s Terrace Beach Resort in Ucluelet for less than $5 million

Islanders want BC Ferries to follow order that lets residents board before tourists

For ferry-dependent communities, ferries are often the sole practical lifeline to work, school or medical appointments.

Washington’s NFL team drops ‘Redskins’ name after 87 years

The franchise was given the name back in 1933, when it was still in Boston

Most Read