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

Anti-racism rally takes to the streets of downtown Victoria

Vigil for George Floyd planned at B.C. Legislature for 7 p.m.

Playgrounds reopen in Sooke

The move comes two months after facilities were shut down during the height of COVID-19 pandemic

Sooke food security initiative grows local interest

Around 30 grow-at-home kits handed out to Sooke residents

Sooke Food Bank takes steps towards ‘new norm’

Need for Sooke Food Bank nearly doubles since beginning of pandemic

West Shore RCMP tags spray-painting suspect for drug trafficking

Spray-painting incidents took place over weekend

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

Vancouver Island Regional Libraries to offer ‘takeout’ style services

VIRL will offer the service on a branch-by-branch basis

George Floyd asphyxiated by sustained pressure: family autopsy

Death sparked a wave of protests across the U.S. and abroad

COVID-19: B.C. commercial landlords can’t evict if they decline rent assistance

Emergency order ‘incentive’ for federal program, Carole James says

Duncan’s Queen Margaret’s School pioneers thermal imaging in school reopening

Private school is first in B.C. to use new tech post-COVID-19

Investigators probe death of CN employee at Surrey rail yard

Transportation Safety Board is investigating an ‘occurrence that took place during switching operations’

Trans Mountain starts B.C. leg of pipeline twinning project

Mostly finished in Alberta, Burnaby terminal expanding

SOOKE HISTORY: Log booming on the San Juan River

Booming crews sorted the logs into booms bounded by cables for towing by tugboat to sawmills

Most Read