With almost 3,500 people accessing the Health Equipment Loan Program last year at the Prince George branch of the Canadian Red Cross.

There’s a call out for volunteers to help meet the demand.

An open house geared for volunteers will be held at the Red Cross, located downtown at 1399 Sixth Ave., on Thursday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. to invite those interested in donating their time to the cause to see exactly how their time can be spent.

“People can come down and meet some of our volunteers,” Sandra Sawtell, coordinator for HELP client services, said. “We will take them on tours and hopefully they’ll be interested in volunteering with us and then they can start the paper work.”

The Red Cross is looking for between 10 and 20 more volunteers to commit at least one weekly four-hour shift to the loan program for the next six months.

The local program sees about 6,500 pieces of equipment borrowed each year.

“So we’re very busy here,” Sawtell said. “We generally try to have one or two volunteers because it can get busy.”

The by-donation service is provided through referral from health care providers like physicians, physiotherapists and nurses who determine a patient’s short-term needs of a mobility aid like a wheelchair, walker, crutches, or any number of canes, as well as bathroom aids like bath chairs, benches, and raised toilet seats. There is also a service called HELP Plus that offers high end equipment like hospital beds for those who need palliative care.

The short-term program needs volunteers to provide client services, administration, and technicians who will clean and repair equipment.

Volunteers split the Monday to Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. day into two shifts, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. and if there is a need another person could take on a 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. shift as well.

Aleta MacFadden, a Prince George high school teacher who retired after 33 years, has volunteered with the program once a week for the last nine years after a hip replacement got her in the door needing equipment. She then saw the need to give back to the program.

“I didn’t want to just be sitting at home watching television all the time,” MacFadden said. “You need something to stimulate your brain and I really like the inclusiveness of the Red Cross. I like helping people and when you put a smile on someone’s face or they say ‘thank you so much’ it really feels good.”

With her teaching background, Sawtell said MacFadden brings a whole other skill set with her, which her makes ideal as a trainer volunteer.

When there’s a gap in the schedule, MacFadden will also fills in as needed.

“But if we had more volunteers that wouldn’t happen as often,” MacFadden said, who’s worried because when she goes away for three weeks in the summer she will leave a gap that needs to be filled by other volunteers.

“We recognize volunteers have a life and they like to travel so we really want to increase our volunteer pool so that we can have a full house and that means less work for those who volunteer now,” said Sawtell.

Francesca Donker is a new volunteer who’s only been with the program a few months and found her way there because one of her friends works for Red Cross on an international basis. Wanting to do her part, Donker decided to throw volunteerism into her already busy juggling-three-jobs life and right from the intake all she found was friendly people.

“It’s been really great,” said Donker.

“Sandra and the volunteers are all really nice and it’s just a really good environment to be in. I couldn’t help be excited about it and it’s an ideal volunteer position for anyone looking to go into the medical field.”

Volunteer schedules are always accommodated at the Health Equipment Loan Program.

“We try to be accommodating as to what our volunteers can offer,” Sawtell said.

For more information or to apply to be a volunteer attend the open house or visit redcross.ca.

EquipmentLoan – BingNews