Nestled in the Rocky Mountains is the mining town of Elkford, BC, located 32 km, or a half-hour drive, north of Sparwood. (Sparwood is 42 km north, a 45-minute drive, from Crowsnest Pass in Alberta.) Elkford is also the traditional territory of the Ktunaxa Nation.
With a population of over 2,700 dispersed over 108 km2 and a median age of 38.4 years, Elkford has a growing and aging population that needs support. (Source: townfolio.co/bc/elkford/demographics.)
As of September 2022, the district municipality has a new Community Response Network (CRN) to drive change thanks to Debby Tomich, Lisa Tomich, and Shelley Peters – the Elkford CRN team. Debby and Shelley are also the CRN’s co-coordinators.
“As a rural and remote town, Elkford relies on hub communities for services,” says Debby. “We have a small medical clinic, but no hospital. We also do not have many transportation options – there are no taxis or buses to help people get around. We do not have a seniors’ centre. When you have so many seniors living alone without access to transportation and no local seniors’ centre, they are very isolated.”
Enter the Neighbours Helping Neighbours program and some excellent timing.
The program offers “neighbourly help” and includes everything from providing transportation to and from medical appointments and grocery shopping trips, meal delivery, assisting with picking up medications, snow removal, light yard work, and providing opportunities to socialize. All services are free of charge.
The idea for the program originated two years ago from a collaboration between the Elkford Lions Club, the Elkford Public Library, and a community investment program out of Teck, a Canadian mining company.
At the same time the Elkford CRN was formed, the CRN team also agreed to manage and administer Neighbours Helping Neighbours. Since then, and with the help of Lisa’s social media skills, the team has built a roster of 33 volunteers who are ready to lend a hand to the community’s adult population.
“We have an intergenerational volunteer team, and all generations from Gen Z to Baby Boomers are represented,” says Lisa. “More than half of the roster has also participated in a See Something, Say Something workshop, so we understand what to do in case we encounter a person who may be at risk for abuse, neglect, or self-neglect.”
The official launch and first volunteer meeting for the program took place on the evening of November 25 over dinner.
“Resources in Elkford are limited, and with the current economy as difficult as it is, the more support we can offer for free, especially to our seniors, the better,” adds Shelley. “All of our volunteers are eager to get started.”
In addition to transportation and monthly social activities, the team also plans to offer education sessions on a variety of topics, including adult abuse, scams, and fraud.
Interested in other “Neighbours Helping Neighbours” programs in the province? Check out our story on the program out of Cranbrook and Kimberley
Written by: Debbie Chow, Links Communication Solutions. Follow Debbie on LinkedIn @debbiechowabc.