Snow angels come to the rescue
Wednesday, Jan 15, 2014 08:38 am
Among the piles of white snow blanketing Okotoks are angels in disguise, using shovels and snow blowers to clear sidewalks and driveways of snow this season.
Debbie Posey would know. She is the one recruiting them.
The Town of Okotoks team leader for Family and Community Support Services has seven angels under her wing in the Town’s Snow Angel program. Each time she receives a call from someone requiring snow removal she sends one out to work.
This year the demand is higher than ever.
“With the heavy snowfall we had this year we’ve had tons of snow,” she said.
Five people required the service of a snow angel so far this season, compared to none last year.
Most are elderly residents who can’t afford to hire someone or residents who recently underwent surgery. In other cases, it’s people who might need some extra help once or twice in a season.
“They make a huge difference for some of our seniors and people who have had surgery and aren’t able to lift,” Posey said of the snow angels. “It’s a great opportunity for youth that are doing graduation hours or just to put on their resume. It’ a feel good type of thing to do.”
With this winter one of the snowiest in years, Posey said they could use a few more angels for their back-up roster.
“Right now we are keeping up,” she said. “We are hoping we don’t have loads and loads of more snow.”
When matches are made, the angels go out after each snowfall to make sure the sidewalk and driveway of the homes they’re assigned to are clear.
Even the snow angels might need an angel of their own if they go away on holidays or, like Al Hagan, are temporarily out of service.
The 71-year-old has been shoveling snow for others for 15 years, having previously owned a snow removal and small landscape company, and never thought twice about helping out.
“There are a lot of seniors who can’t do it and can’t afford to buy snow service,” he said. “My background is in social work so I always helped people. For me that’s what life is all about is trying to be neighbourly and help others.”
Having recently undergone surgery and with a very sick wife, Hagan is now the one reaching out to the Snow Angels program.
“We couldn’t manage without it,” he said. “We are so lucky to have it. People are willing to help when it’s needed. That’s just the primary characteristic of Okotoks.”
Another angel in disguise is Ian Smith, who joined the program this season to keep busy after he went on disability from his work.
“I had some time on my hands and a family member suggested maybe I should do that,” he said. “I did it to get out of the house and help out at the same time.”
A week after he joined was when Okotoks started to get hit with snowstorms.
“I’ve been going out at least one trip a week,” he said. “Any time it snows I’ve got to get out there. Last time I shoveled a route in the evening and had to go back in the morning.”
Smith soon found the program more rewarding than he expected.
“I enjoy getting out and doing it,” he said. “It’s another way to stay active. Volunteering is almost a selfish thing because you feel good about doing it.”
Smith also likes how volunteering gets him connected with people in the community and the message it teaches his eight-year-old daughter, who often accompanies him on his shoveling duties.
“She was questioning why we would do someone else’s shoveling,” he said. “She has an appreciation of it herself. She says she wants to be a snow angel.”
The first house Smith visited, the resident asked him to help her change a light bulb. Smith has offered to help her with other tasks including getting groceries.
“It’s given her an extra support person other than shoveling,” he said.
Posey said anyone can be a snow angel whether they join the program or not.
“I encourage Okotoks residents to be good neighbours on every street,” she said. “If they see a neighbour who hasn’t able to shovel or hasn’t shoveled, be a snow angel.”
For more information about the Snow Angels program or any other volunteer opportunity through the Town of Okotoks go to www.okotoks.ca