The telephone rings a lot. People drop in to the Reid Street office. Better at Home is a busy place. And at the heart of this bustling operation is Brenda Gardiner, a devoted, passionate woman who cares deeply for all her clients and volunteers.
Better at Home is celebrating three years operating and the organization that pairs volunteers with seniors in need of a wide variety of assistance has exceeded all expectations.
The books count 300 clients however not all are active and about 30 have passed away. Some require only seasonal assistance but the biggest budget buster is housecleaning, the most needed and the biggest factor in keeping seniors in their homes longer.
“We are so much more than cleaning toilets though,” Gardiner said.
“In many ways we are the community conduit for the seniors, many of which have absolutely no personal support system.”
With 92 volunteers, Gardiner admitted they need many more.
She said volunteers and a friendly voice on the other end of the phone is sometimes the only contact these seniors have with the outside world.
Another costly service is transportation to out-of-town appointments.
“Due to costs, lack of other efficient and ready transportation options, usage is way over expectations and budget availability,” Gardiner added.
But her job as coordinator is so much more.
With a big smile, she said, “I’m constantly inspired by the seniors I meet.”
She went on to say generally they are a joy to meet, help and deal with.
“Many depend solely on our help, support and service provisions as they have no one to help them.”
The most common demographic within Gardiner’s client list is women between the ages of 75 – 85 on low fixed incomes.
Because Better at Home is designed with a sliding scale as to who pays for services, most of her clients receive the services free.
They just don’t have enough income.
Gardiner has been asked on a provincial level to train other Better at Home offices on volunteer retention, which she sees as a real honour.
“Obviously we’re doing something right here, but it really comes down to the caliber of volunteers and Quesnel has outstanding volunteers.”
As of this week Better at Home volunteers have provided 4,071 service moments including friendly visits, snow removal, house cleaning, shopping, rides to appointments and yard work, but that doesn’t tell the whole story.
With each senior client a relationship is developed that often goes beyond the scope of the program but Gardiner explains, “when the client is on the phone in distress, what’s a person to do. With our services we create a certain dependency and a safety net that must hold up through whatever life throws at our clients.”
The need continues to grow but Better at Home’s budget stays the same.
Where clients with a decent income might pay for services, with most of Gardiner’s clients who are on fixed low incomes, there are no charges for the services rendered,
so the incoming funds are
Gardiner is also always mindful of the boundaries which can become blurred between clients and the program and family members who want to protect their senior family members.
Whenever possible they meet with the family and discuss the senior’s needs and who can best fulfil them.
It’s important to note that the public is encouraged to donate to the Better at Home program to help fund services currently on hold or pending.
They can make a cash donation (and receive a taxable donation receipt); employees can set up a monthly payroll deduction and ask to make the NCAFPS- Better at Home the designation; or consider a legacy donation through their will.
The outstanding volunteer work being carried out by Better at Home remains unseen by most of the community but should you be a senior on the receiving end of those precious hours of assistance, they allow the senior to remain in their home which is where most want to be.
For information on the program or how you can get involved, call Gardiner at 250-992-9156.