Volunteer group provides crucial services

Oak Bay Volunteer Services supports many residents, including many seniors

Judy Parkhurst was recently recognized for 35 years as a OBVS volunteer.

Judy Parkhurst was recently recognized for 35 years as a OBVS volunteer.

Last month, Oak Bay Volunteer Services heard from a resident concerned about a neighbour with serious health problems, limited income and no local family. While she had been coping, the challenges were progressing and she needed help to manage through the day.

“The caller did not know where to turn,” Joan Halvorsen, OBVS executive director, said in her report to the group’s 35th annual general meeting.

“We provided referrals along with suggestions as to how to best navigate the system. We are providing volunteer help with a view to seeing what further volunteer help can be provided as the person adjusts to life changes.”

It was just one example of the work the organization and its many volunteers undertake every day in Oak Bay.

OBVS aims to “assist Oak Bay residents of all ages in need by providing one-to-one volunteer services.”

With a vision of “a community in which personal quality of life and independence are improved,” the society is guided by its 2016-2019 Strategic Plan, Halvorsen said.

“Services to clients are the top priority. The individuals we serve include senior, disabled, low-income and other citizens in need. Clients generally tend to come to us when something changes in their life and help is needed.

In addition to providing direct volunteer services, OBVS often links people to other resources, works with family members, and helps them adjust to and cope with changess.

“Our work is generally never very straight forward. Each person is unique in who they are, and in what they are dealing with in their life. Our services truly are individualized and in many situations complex,” Halvorsen says.

Among the key services the 229 OBVS volunteers undertook last year were driving clients to essential medical, surgery, therapy, financial, legal and other appointments, in addition to shopping, food banks, and recreation activities. Last year volunteers undertook 1,627 drives, which averages to four drives every day.

Additional vital services include visits, walks, daily reassurance phone calls to check in and arrange emergency medical help if needed, income tax returns, reading, writing, gardening and minor repairs.

Volunteers are also crucial on the board of directors, with office work, publicity and fundraising.

Financial support comes from a variety of sources, including the municipality, province, United Way and Island Health, but individual donations are key to fundraising, Halvorsen said.

The group also plans to build the OBVS Fund through the Victoria Foundation, which provides ongoing annual funding through endowment earnings.

Earlier this year, the organization issued a special donation appeal after some major grants were reduced or delayed. “I am very pleased to report that this appeal was a great success,  Halvorsen said. “We raised $71,966.40. Our thanks go to all the many individuals and the businesses that supported us. We are grateful for all the donations which came in varying amounts.”