The Drive Happiness Seniors Association is on the lookout for local volunteers to help seniors get around the community and the region.
Based in Edmonton, the non-profit‘s goal is to help seniors maintain an independent lifestyle that enables them to remain in their own homes.
That includes being able to get to medical appointments, socialize, do some banking, and purchase groceries among other day-to-day activities — via affordable and accessible transportation, said Shelly Van Eaton, program coordinator for Ponoka FCSS.
Locally, FCSS reps are working to build awareness of the program and encourage local drivers to sign up to help out.
“It started in the late 1990s, and anyone can sign up to qualify to be a driver. They can just go to drivehappiness.ca or they can get ahold of us here as well if they would like to join it,” she said.
“They will get extra insurance from the organization and they will also receive mileage reimbursement.”
Van Eaton said that volunteers don’t have to make strict commitments, either.
“They can phone in and find out what people are needing for rides, or they can go online and select certain drives. They can even do one drive a year, or 100 drives a year — but every drive helps somebody,” she said.
When the organization first launched, advocates had seen that seniors needing help with transportation could be served by connecting volunteer drivers with seniors who were willing to pay a small fee to receive rides.
On Feb. 6, 2002, Lifestyle Helping Hands Seniors Association became a registered corporation.
In 2016, members voted to change the name to Drive Happiness Seniors Association.
“You have to sign up to be a driver, and you have to sign up to be a rider. Everyone in it is signed up in one way or another,” said Van Eaton.
Today, the service is also available in some 30 rural centres across the province, she added.
“We are going to be doing some more promotion, and have already been doing that to try and get folks to sign up. If anyone needs help in signing up, we can certainly help them,” she said.
“We are hearing about other communities that have this, like Hanna. They have a great program, and we’d certainly like to mimic that,” she said.
“We used to have a driver referral program, where the clients would buy the volunteer lunch and put a bit of fuel in the vehicle, but unfortunately with insurance and issues of more liability, that program ended.
“Now, with this one, (the association) looks after all of that,” she added.
“If everybody capable of doing it in this area could do one or two drives per year, that would be huge,” she said.
In other FCSS news, tax time is approaching, and to that end, income tax preparation services will again be provided in March through the Community Volunteer Income Tax program for seniors and those with lower incomes.
Program volunteers complete tax and benefit returns for community members at no charge who fall within the income guidelines.
For more information about the Drive Happiness program, visit www.drivehappiness.ca or call the local FCSS office at 403-783-4462.
For more about the Community Volunteer Income Tax program, call the office or head to www.ponokafcss.net.