The Rotary Club of Penticton presented South Okanagan Seniors Wellness Society volunteer and Friendly Visitor co-ordinator Evelyn Blaine with its 2011 Senior of the Year Award Wednesday afternoon.
A lung cancer survivor, Blaine is also a volunteer with the Canadian Cancer Society where she has facilitated several programs, including a smoking cessation program, a cancer support group and a peer support visiting program.
The Friendly Visitor program matches up isolated vulnerable seniors with volunteers who spend time with them at their homes or out in the community.
“I felt very humbled when you read the names of previous award winners,” Blaine told the Rotarians. “I feel the award really goes to the many volunteers that I co-ordinate. They are the ones that really do the work and I just assigned them here and there in the community.
“I have been in Penticton for 18 years and it is the volunteering that I have done that has made this place feel like home.”
After the ceremony, Blaine said co-ordinating the Friendly Visitor program has benefited her just as much, if not more, as the seniors the program serves.
“It is an absolutely amazing program,” she said. “It helps to break that lonely isolated feeling some seniors feel and sometimes introduces our clients to services in the community that will help them.
“The sad thing is that it is so needed, that there are seniors in that situation and we are always short of volunteers.”
Blaine said the society is about to initiate three new programs she is excited about.
“We are starting a new program called Tele-Friend and it will be based off the same procedures as Friendly Visitor, only instead of the volunteer going to the senior’s home, they will do their visits by telephone because some seniors do not want someone coming into their homes,” explained Blaine.
“Another program we are starting is called the Gate Keepers. Basically we will put on community workshops that teach people how to recognize seniors’ needs and what to do about it. Who they can call up and say, ‘This person looks like they might be in danger’ and know that they will be looked after.”
Wellness society executive director Kelly Smith said Blaine is an invaluable part of the organization’s team.
“Evelyn is very giving and very smart. She always does what is needed to be done without even thinking twice about it,” said Smith. “Her goal is what is best for the community.
“She is dedicated and she cares about people and that’s what makes her good at her job and volunteering.”