Worried about vulnerable Kamloops residents this winter? Here’s how to help

At home or throughout the city, we outline some ways to give back to the Kamloops community this winter
Icicles dangle off a home's roof in Kamloops.
Icicles dangle off the roofing of a Kamloops home on Nov. 21. The city’s early cold snap this month placed a lot of vulnerable residents at risk. Photo by Kyra Grubb / The Wren

Kamloops has seen its fair share of discussions this month about how to help vulnerable residents, after issues with a local service provider meant emergency weather locations had a bumpy opening at the beginning of November. 

While some organizations stepped up to bridge the gap, they also urged residents to step up, too — by volunteering their time.

If you’d like to donate money or goods to organizations serving the city, quite a few local charities are running fundraising campaigns in support of vulnerable residents before the holidays. But money’s tight this time of year, and personal connection goes far. Those interested in providing more hands-on support by volunteering in Kamloops have plenty of options, whether at home or throughout the city.

On your street

Outside of working with official providers, plenty of change can be implemented in your own neighbourhood. Jamie Chase, fire inspector and life safety educator for the Kamloops Fire Department, says residents should keep an eye out for two types of risky behaviour from neighbours this winter.

First is shovelling snow, which Chase explains puts residents at an increased risk of cardiac arrest. Older folks, too, are susceptible to slip-and-fall accidents, making shovelling all the more dangerous.

Shovelling and salting your own walkway and the sidewalk in front of your house helps passersby stay upright, but offering to help at-risk neighbours is even better, Chase says.

Volunteer Kamloops runs an annual program called Snow Angels, which brings community members together to keep vulnerable residents safe from slippery snow. Every year, the organization pairs Kamloops volunteers with neighbours who aren’t able to remove snow from their pathways, stairs, sidewalks and driveways. 

According to the City of Kamloops, over 300 residents are in need of volunteer help every winter. Those interested in volunteering can call 250-372-8313 or email info@volunteerkamloops.org. 

Another hazard to keep an eye out for is heater fires, Chase says.

“As the cost of home heating, and inflation in general, goes up we may see an increased use of personal heaters. As less central heating is used, people may turn to radiant heaters for additional warmth,” he explains. “If not maintained, or not used properly, they can be at greater risk for electrical or radiant heat fires.”

Using heating equipment that isn’t intended for the indoors also increases the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Chase adds residents who are more likely to use improper heating equipment are also more likely to not have effective smoke or carbon monoxide detectors.

Checking in on neighbours — especially elderly or vulnerable ones — can go a long way to prevent serious injuries or fires.

Across the city

A number of service organizations sorely need Kamloops volunteers throughout the winter. The Mustard Seed and Out of the Cold, two organizations that stepped up to staff overnight shelters this month after CMHA backed out, are looking for volunteers to help them through the colder months.

Those who enjoy late-night drives can sign up for Operation Red Nose, a designated driving service where community volunteers drive people — and their cars — home. This year, the service will be running from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Nov. 25 and 26, as well as every Thursday, Friday and Saturday in December with the exception of Dec. 24.

PacificSport Interior BC, which runs the program, is still looking for Kamloops volunteers to work as designated drivers, escort drivers, navigators, phone operators and dispatchers. Shifts range from four to six hours in length, and volunteers are required to complete a criminal record check through the Kamloops RCMP.

To volunteer, call 250-320-0650 ​​or email kamloops@operationrednose.com

The Senior’s Light Tour, a free annual event hosted by the City of Kamloops, is also back this year and seeking volunteers. On Thursday, Dec. 8 from 6 to 10 p.m., senior citizens are invited to tour all the holiday lights, enjoy tea and join a sing-a-long at the Sandman Centre.

Prospective volunteers can attend an orientation session on Monday, Dec. 5 at 6 p.m. at the Tournament Capital Centre. Contact Chelsea Tekonomy at ctekonomy@kamloops.ca by Dec. 2 to register.

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