By Garrett Simmons
Every winter, our southern Alberta streets and sidewalks get blasted with snow.
For some, particularly the elderly or those with mobility issues, it’s a monumental task to clear the snow from their sidewalks or driveways.
Luckily, for residents in Coalhurst, the Family and Community Support Services Snow Angels program is there to help.
“We’re excited to offer this in Coalhurst,” said Cindy Lauwen, Volunteer Services Coordinator for FCSS, who added the 2023/2024 program will include a new twist. “Before, we had people matched up with seniors directly. This year, seniors and people with mobility issues can apply for the program and if they’re accepted, they’ll get a Snow Angels sign that lets the community know that the resident of the home is unable to shovel snow for themselves.”
That sign will give the green light to youth groups, church groups, gym classes or any other resident who might want to volunteer and help out a fellow citizen.
“There are a few other FCSS organizations in the province that are trying it, and hopefully, the sign system makes it easier for people to help out,” said Kaitlynn Weaver, Outreach Services Supervisor for FCSS.
She added that, in the past, youth volunteers were matched with seniors who needed their walks shoveled and sometimes those young people would often live across town, which made it difficult to clear snow in a timely fashion.
“This way, people can support their neighbours and the people that live on their block, with less logistical challenges.”
For The Town of Coalhurst, the partnership with FCSS was a no brainer, especially since seniors in the community identified a Snow Angels program as an area of need.
“The Snow Angels program provides a great opportunity for able-bodied residents of Coalhurst to assist those who have challenges with winter snow clearing,” said Shawn Patience, Chief Administrative Officer for The Town of Coalhurst. “While the program plays a positive role in winter pedestrian safety, it also shows the strength of community and promotes our small-town quality of life.”
The CAO added the program will have another benefit as well.
“By lending a helping hand to a neighbour, senior or anyone with mobility issues, whether permanent or temporary, you can connect with other residents, start friendships, build a sense of pride and display what it means to be a truly caring community,” said Patience. “A few extra minutes with your shovel or snow blower can make a big difference to someone with challenges.”
Coalhurst is a tight-knit, volunteer-based community, according to Weaver, who added that the Snow Angels program will feed right into that.
“We’re hopeful it will continue to promote a community minded and collective spirit,” she said. “This program helps the community to support one another.”
FCSS is hoping the sign-based Snow Angels program can be replicated.
“We’re going to pilot it in Coalhurst and see how it goes, and we’re certain that other communities will want it as well,” said Weaver.
Lauwen added volunteers can also call into FCSS and track their snow-clearing hours, with a big prize on the line.
“The incentive for volunteers is anyone who reports their hours will be entered to win a summer neighbourhood block party with our NeighbourGOOD trailer,” said Lauwen, who added volunteers can also take home monthly prizes.
In order to win the prize, volunteers must contact Lauwen at email@example.com, or call 403-915-7063. However, individuals who just feel like helping out a neighbour don’t have to sign up and can shovel snow from the sidewalks and driveways in front of any home that features a Snow Angels sign, whenever the mood strikes them.
To see if you are eligible to apply for a Snow Angels sign, please contact Lauwen at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 403-915-7063.