Snow Angels were needed this week in unprecedented numbers, and they answered the call without hesitation.
It seemed all of Chilliwack was snowed in over the weekend, and there were many stories of neighbourhoods coming together to dig each other out. But there were also dozens of seniors who did not have a neighbour or family member to come along and rescue them, and those seniors knew to call the Snow Angel program at the Senior Resources’ Society.
But there more than 30 people who called, and not enough Angels to get to everyone in a timely manner. So, they put out the call. And when a story ran in The Progress on Wednesday, the number of volunteer Snow Angels doubled.
“We added to our numbers by 15 so far,” said Colletta Holmes, from the resource society. That brings the total of Snow Angels up to 30, and even though some are seniors themselves, and some work full time, the outpouring of volunteer spirit was enough in just one day to clear 34 sidewalks and driveways.
It’s been a bright beacon of community effort after a tough weekend of snowfall, Holmes says.
“I’m overwhelmed by the positive attitudes,” she says. “People are saying, ‘I want to help, how can I help, what can I do?’ They are ready to just hit the ground running, and that makes a huge difference for us when we’re trying to schedule people.”
Her longtime volunteers weren’t even interested in speaking with reporters, Holmes says. That would be time away from pushing a shovel.
While they’re happy with the outpouring of support, the more Snow Angels the merrier, she adds.
“It’s really tough, and we don’t want to wear them down,” she says.
And while the snow has stopped falling for now, she adds it’s not even winter yet, and these troubles are far from over. That once fluffy and blowing snow now includes a layer of frozen snow on the ground. It’s heavier, harder to shovel, and deeper than it was just a few days ago. And that means the Angels are more at risk of injuring or overworking themselves.
There are some tips she has for all homeowners. Layering salt on the path to be cleared, and letting it sit for a few hours ideally in the sun, can make the shoveling much easier when an Angel arrives.
When seniors are snowed in, it’s not just about getting them out and about. It also limits their mail service, newspaper and other deliveries, and home care services.
What’s been frustrating for some who normally walk around town are the sidewalks that seem to be under nobody’s jurisdiction, Holmes said. There are large portions of Spadina Ave. that are under construction that haven’t been cleared, and Nowell Street, another area with many pedestrians, is not walkable at all. People are forced into the already narrow road, that’s been made even more narrow by snow drifts.
“That’s a major place for people to walk back and forth, and the width of the road is compromised so what might have been two clear roads is now single lane. And if the roads are still not clear, they cars are still sliding all over the place.”
But the Snow Angels will continue to do what they can to make getting to and fro easier for everyone. And that will continue to be important even if next week’s warm weather starts to melt the snow off.
Then, she says, it will be important to keep storm drains clear, so properties don’t flood.
In the meantime, she’s telling all her seniors to try to enjoy the brightness that a winter wonderland brings.
“Even if they can’t get outside, I’m telling them to sit in the window and enjoy the sunshine,” she says. “It’s the brightness and the beauty of it.”
The Snow Angel program has been running since 2008, but has never been called into service in these numbers. To volunteer, or find out about having your sidewalk cleared, contact the society by email at email@example.com or call 604-793-9979.