Neighbours with shovels needed
Okotoks: Snow Angels program looking for community volunteers
Wednesday, Dec 27, 2017 11:58 am
Okotokians with strong backs and big hearts are being asked to put their shovels to work to help out their neighbours.
There has been an increase in the number of Okotoks residents requiring help to clear their sidewalks and driveways after snowfall, but not enough volunteers to go around through the Town’s Snow Angels program. The program matches volunteers with residents in their own neighbourhoods who can’t shovel on their own.
Volunteer co-ordinator Sian Anderson said the Town is looking for at least five more people to help out at the moment, though the number of Snow Angels can vary through the winter.
“Residents can request the program at any time,” said Anderson. “But even if we don’t find matches for people right away we encourage everyone to go and be a Snow Angel independent of us anyway just by looking around their own neighbourhoods.”
Volunteers must apply through the Town and will go through a screening process, including an interview and a criminal record check, to ensure the safety of everyone involved, she said.
Once matched, Snow Angels are required to remove the snow from their match’s sidewalks within 24 hours of a snowfall, in keeping with the Town’s bylaws.
If a volunteer is away on vacation or can’t make it for any reason, they must report it to the Town so someone else can cover their designated property, she said.
The Snow Angels program is available to anyone who is physically unable to shovel snow on their own, who does not have older children or other adults capable of snow removal living in the household or friends or family in the community who can help, she said.
They are also asked whether they can afford to pay for snow removal services, she said.
“We really look at trying to ensure the people matched with the program have no other options available to them for snow removal,” said Anderson.
The minimum age to register as a volunteer with the Town in any capacity is 13 years old, she said. There are some high school students enlisted as Snow Angels, and some parents choose to bring younger children along with them while they shovel at their match’s house, she said.
“We do have some amazing high school students who are involved and they’re very eager and do a great job, so it’s really just dependent on the person,” said Anderson. “We try to make sure we explain to volunteers so they understand the commitment they’re giving.”
To register as a volunteer with the Town, visit www.okotoks.ca/volunteer.
Okotoks snow removal
Residents are required to shovel Town sidewalks adjacent to their homes within 24 hours of snowfall.
Municipal enforcement manager Kelly Stienwand said peace officers monitor residential and commercial sidewalks after snow events to ensure public safety.
“Our officers do keep an eye out for sidewalks that are unkempt and we do try to communicate with the property owner what their requirements are and why it’s so important to public safety to ensure these walkways get cleaned in a timely fashion,” said Stienwand.
The fine for not clearing a sidewalk within the 24-hour timeframe is $250, though Stienwand said officers are more likely to speak to the homeowner, business owner or tenant and discuss the bylaw before issuing a ticket.
He said officers keep information about programs like Snow Angels in their vehicles to pass on to residents who may need a little help in the winter.
“We’re really pleased to see programs like the Snow Angels program to assist us in what we’re trying to do, which is keeping our residents safe,” said Stienwand. “It’s a great program.”