Visiting volunteers need help 

Calling on volunteers to assist community members in need

From cancer victims and AIDS patients to first-time mums and the elderly, the Elizabeth Manso Visiting Volunteers have been just a phone call away ready to help out.

But now they’re the ones looking for help.

Some of their best and most dedicated volunteers are no longer able to give up their time in the community, leaving only a handful of people on call.

"We don’t know what our needs are going to be," said Eileen Tomalty, founder of the Elizabeth Manso Visiting Volunteers.

"We’re able to supply everybody but we would prefer to have a few more volunteers so we don’t keep asking the same ones."

The volunteers have been providing an invaluable service to many community members for the past seven years.

Just ask Donna Retty, mother of four, including brand new twin boys.

When Jacob and Nicholas returned from the hospital earlier this year, the Elizabeth Manso Visiting Volunteers helped out Retty every day over a two-week period.

There was double the feeding, double the changing, double the crying, in addition to the needs of two older siblings – two and a half year old Katie and six and a half year old Tyler.

"I didn’t have any family for a three week period," Retty recalled.

The volunteers took the place of a family for about two hours each day. They helped feed the babies or would take the older kids to the park or sometimes they just watched the kids, allowing Retty precious rest time.

The volunteering visits have tapered off to about once a week now but looking back, Retty said the help was invaluable.

"When you need somebody they’re there for you," said Retty who is a nurse at the Whistler Health Care Centre.

"It’s been wonderful."

At first Retty didn’t think she would be eligible for help with the visiting volunteers, believing their scope only extended to terminal patients. But in fact, the visiting volunteers are addressing many different needs in the community.

The idea was first planted in Tomalty’s head after the death of Elizabeth Manso about seven years ago.

Tomalty had been visiting Manso, who had cancer, during the day while her family was at work.

From their teatime chats came the idea that Tomalty should extend this much-needed service throughout the community. So over the course of the years the volunteers have been sitting at the besides of cancer patients or grocery shopping for people with broken legs or providing moral support for the sick and the lonely.

Now their services include watching over newborns while exhausted mums catch a few hours sleep.

"Young mother having babies are the most common now," said Tomalty. "Some don’t have families around here."

The volunteers, who are usually retired, spend about two hours a day lending their services.

Many of them, like Tomalty herself, are former nurses, although they do not act as nurses when they have their volunteering hats on.

"Most of us are nurses or have worked in the public health or are just wonderful grannies," she joked.

Tomalty is quick to point out that the volunteers do not take on any jobs that someone can be paid for. They are not from the church, rather from the community. And their duties usually don’t extend to the weekends unless there is an emergency.

Tomalty has nothing but praise for the volunteers she co-ordinates.

"Nobody ever refuses," she said.

"They always give me a day somewhere."

Up until now she has been functioning with eight to 10 volunteers. That number is now down to about four.

"We’re looking for anybody who might be interested," she said.

Volunteering with the visiting volunteers is a great way to get to know people in the community she said, as well as giving something back.

"It’s very rewarding. It’s something that I consider at the top of my list of my priorities unless the family comes first."

For more information about the Elizabeth Manso Visiting Volunteers call Eileen Tomalty at 604-932-2004.

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