Haliburton Highlands Health Services (HHHS) is searching for volunteers willing to offer their time, kindness and compassion to support several community-based programs operating across its facilities.

Over the summer, HHHS relaunched many of its in-person volunteer programs at Highland Wood and Hyland Crest senior homes following two years of shutdown during the pandemic. Brigitte Gebauer, HHHS volunteer coordinator, said start-up has been successful, and the organization needs to find more people willing to lend a hand.

“We’re really trying to repopulate our volunteer base. Volunteers add so much to residents’ lives… whether it’s just going in and spending time with folks, helping with different activities, and providing some form of entertainment,” Gebauer said. “Even if it’s just playing cards, or leading workshops on something you’re passionate about. We’re really keen to explore different opportunities.”

Most popular among initiatives currently running are the coffee and colouring program, walking club and social active senior program.

HHHS is also looking for additional support in its hospice department. Staff recently launched a hospice day program and caregiver support program, which have been popular.

“We’re looking for volunteers who can help in a more informal way. They don’t need to be hospice trained, but just assisting staff who are leading those programs,” Gebauer said.

“Our adult day program that supports seniors who are still living in the community could use a few new faces, too,” Gebauer said.

Presently, HHHS has a volunteer pool of around 250 people, though many of those are seasonal residents who, with borders having reopened, will soon be flocking south to escape the cold. Others have been hesitant to get involved again given COVID is still prevalent in the community.

One area Gebauer said she needs immediate assistance is the door-to-door transportation service. The program matches clients with volunteers, who will drive them to medical appointments. While not free, the service is operated at a low cost.

The program has between 10 and 15 active drivers, but with an increase in demand recently Gebauer said she would like to double that number.

“The majority of our drivers are making regular trips to Lindsay, Peterborough and Bracebridge. We’re looking for folks who would be willing to make trips like that, sometimes even down to Toronto,” Gebauer said. “We also need people who are willing to do local drives, because that frees up some of our other volunteers who are willing to do the longer trips.”

Potential volunteers would need to go through a screening process before they’re approved and must be vaccinated against COVID. Masking protocols remain in place across all HHHS facilities.

“We find our volunteers build real connections with the clients they serve. They like to know that they’re making a difference,” Gebauer said. “Without our volunteers, we wouldn’t be able to operate these programs – many of which people, mostly seniors, rely on to get to appointments, but also for emotional support too.”

Anyone interested in becoming a volunteer can contact Gebauer at 705-457-1392 ext. 2927 or volunteering@hhhs.ca.