Flamborough bucks Snow Angels volunteer trends

Although several areas of the City of Hamilton are dealing with a shortage of volunteers for the Snow Angels program, Flamborough has bucked the trend.

The city’s Snow Angels program, a volunteer-driven snow removal service for low-income seniors and people with disabilities, is not accepting new clients for snow removal due to “overwhelming demand and volunteer turnover,” according to the city’s website.

As a result, in many areas of the city, the program can only provide snow removal to clients who were matched with a Snow Angel in the 2018-19 season.

Al Fletcher, the city’s manager of neighbourhood development, which took over the program from Volunteer Hamilton four years ago, said while there isn’t an overall volunteer shortfall there are shortages in specific areas of the city.

“Since we have taken over this project we have not been able to match all the people on the list with a volunteer in their neighbourhood, as of yet,” he said.

Fletcher said the program, which is completely volunteer-based, matches a client with someone in their neighbourhood.

“So it’s geographically matched, because most people don’t travel outside of their immediate neighbourhood — and if we’re talking about snow events, we don’t want to put anyone in a safety issue,” he explained.

While there are several wards where the city has not been able to match enough volunteers and clients, Fletcher said there are others where there are more Snow Angels than clients on the list.

“The question has come up, should we open it up for more people?,” he said. “The difficulty I have is, do you only open it up in one area of the city — is that really fair?

“I don’t like the perception of opening up only part of the city.”

He said the city manages the Snow Angels program for the majority of Hamilton — with the exception of Stoney Creek and Flamborough.

In Flamborough the initiative is administered by Flamborough Connects, which receives funding from the city to operate the Snow Angels program, and communications and events co-ordinator Holly McCann said they are accepting applicants.

“We usually have five to seven but it fluctuates every year,” she said, noting there have been eight to 10 in past years.

While the Snow Angels program is available across Flamborough — and they do struggle to find volunteers who can help those who live in Troy, Sheffield, Carlisle and on the concession roads — McCann said the majority of their current clients are in Waterdown.

“We usually are able to cover (the numbers) with all the people that we need,” she said. “We’re definitely lucky in Waterdown and Flamborough.”

She said Flamborough currently has three families and one high school student as volunteers — and within the family there are several volunteers.

“One family, they have a high school-aged son and he gets his volunteer hours, but the family participates together,” she said.

While Flamborough Connects tries to have all clients matched with a volunteer prior to the first snowfall, McCann said the program always gets new applicants over the course of the year.

“A lot of the recipients of the program are seniors and slips and falls do happen,” she said.

Fletcher said from the citywide standpoint, the areas with the worst shortages are in the east and central Mountain, as well as Hamilton Centre and East Hamilton.

Fletcher said some of the wards where it’s hard to find the Snow Angels are often where the many original or long-term homeowners live.

“Part of the problem is the homes don’t turn over, so you don’t get a younger population in there that could be Snow Angels — that’s just the demographics of what we’re dealing with in Hamilton,” he said.

Right now the program has approximately 150 clients and 216 Snow Angels — not including Flamborough and Stoney Creek.

“But geographically, they’re in the wrong spot,” he said of the volunteers. “Those with the ability to shovel may not be living in some of the neighbourhoods with the higher needs.”

Fletcher said the program recruits volunteers through the year — right up to the last snowfall.

“We continue a fairly aggressive, robust campaign,” he said. “But we lose people because it’s cold weather and it’s physical — it’s not for everyone.”

The moratorium on accepting new clients has provoked some complaints, but Fletcher said they do track everyone who calls, creating a waiting list of sorts. However, he said the program has not verified the eligibility of those who are on the list.

“If they don’t meet those requirements, we can’t help them,” he said, although there are other organizations that do snow clearing — but often for a fee.

In order to solve the volunteer shortages in specific areas, Fletcher said they work through councillors’ offices, focusing on those where they are short.

“We’ve done social media campaigns, last year we did mail-outs in the postal code areas where we needed volunteers the most, we’ve gone out to community organizations, and through churches to try and drum up volunteers,” he said. “We also promote the idea that you don’t have to be a Snow Angel — if you look out your window and you see someone who needs help, be neighbourly and help.”

Volunteers for the program must be 14 or older, in good physical health and reliable. They receive a winter hat, winter gloves and warm socks donated by Mark’s, a volunteer appreciation event and high school students can receive volunteer hours.

To learn more about the Snow Angels program in Flamborough, to apply to receive support or volunteer, call 905-689-7880, email holly@flamboroughconnects.ca or visit https://flamboroughconnects.ca/information/seniors-programs/seniors-support/.

To apply elsewhere in Hamilton, call 905-540-5711 email nas@hamilton.ca or visit www.hamilton.ca/social-services/support-programs/snow-angels-volunteer-application.

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163 Dundas Street East Waterdown, Ontario Mailing address: P.O. Box 240, L0R 2H0 admin@flamboroughconnects.ca 905.689.7880 1.800.297.3427

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