Impact Stories

Helping seniors in West Kelowna

Here. When you need us.

As the fires burned near their homes, many seniors in West Kelowna found themselves unsure of their living situation. Though not on orders or alerts to evacuate, there was the looming possibility that it could happen at any time. While they waited anxiously, unsure how their friends and family were doing or how they would evacuate themselves if needed, the increasing smoke and poor air quality kept them inside and isolated at home.

United Way BC’s Wildfire Recovery Fund supported the Westside Salvation Army by providing the necessary resources to deliver meals to 45 seniors in need. The delivery is crucial to helping the seniors by not only providing food but also an opportunity to do wellness checks.

Health challenges keep seniors inside

Many of the seniors, like Sheila, live with health challenges, particularly breathing. Living in West Kelowna, Shelia has COPD which makes it critical she isn’t exposed to smoky air. Dennis is one of the caseworkers who delivered food and visited with the seniors.

“We were approached by United Way BC on the Friday about helping seniors in their homes,” says Jennifer Henson, Salvation Army. “I connected with Sonia at Westside Health Network Society and by Monday we were delivering meals to 26 seniors.”

A previous partnership between the organizations allowed the quick response to the need. On the Friday night, Salvation Army staff were contacting seniors to find out who needed meal service. Working with a caterer they had used in the past allowed them to get custom meals prepared quickly and delivered.

Answering the call to help

 “For a lot of those seniors, it would be really terrifying,” says Jennifer. “Knowing that this is going on in your community. You see everything through your window or TV and maybe you don’t have a lot of people that you connect with on a regular basis. It’s not just the meals, it’s also the phone calls to arrange the meals and check in with them, and then somebody’s showing up at your house.”

An additional 400 seniors are also supported through the Westside Health Network Society, thanks in part to funding from United Way BC’s Emergency Preparedness Response.

United Way BC supporting those in need

“This fund was created in response to the increasing climate emergencies – such as last year’s fires and floods as a way to better support seniors during climate emergencies,” says Lisa Cyr, Regional Community Director for the Interior with United Way BC. “In addition to supporting immediate response, it also covers a variety of things, preparedness workshops, planning, and developing supports and systems to respond efficiently. For example, when we think of evacuations, we don’t always consider mobility issues or the fact that older adults may not access technology the way we do, to receive the alerts and updates.  This is one way we can support communities as they prepare their plans and determine the best way to support local seniors.”

The Network is preparing kits for the seniors to assist them while they remain in their homes. While they are delivering the kits they can touch base with seniors to provide further assistance and determine any needs that may be arising.

As Jennifer describes it, “We’re saying “I see you. I know you’re here. You matter and you’re cared for.” That’s so important.”

Facilitating work like this is part of what United Way BC’s mission – something it cannot do without the support of its donors, volunteers, and partners.