Long before the snow started falling, Lisa Hinton began worrying. She’s the director of Community Living Connections which runs the Community Help Line, where seniors and people with disabilities can call to get help for a variety of living related issues – including snow removal.
“When it started to snow I had virtually no resources,” Hinton said. Some local businesses volunteered employees, but it was nowhere near enough. “I had four or five requests for help and then it began snowing.”
Some days, the phone rang more than 65 times, mostly because seniors were calling to get help with snow shoveling.
It’s not just about clearing sidewalks, Hinton said.
“We get calls from elderly who can’t leave the house, or can’t get mail,” Hinton said.
For the safety of postal workers, a path has to be cleared to the mail drop, and para-transit will pick a person up at the curb.
“So you have to be able to get to the curb from your home,” Hinton said.
She called around searching for volunteers and ended up connecting with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Spokane Valley.
There, Sister Danieze Richins saw an opportunity to connect church volunteers with a seemingly endless supply of volunteer jobs. The church encourages its members to volunteer at least 10 hours a week.
“I can tell you we have been so busy,” Richins said.
Hinton gets the initial phone calls and figures out what the caller needs, then sends the request on to Richins.
“So far we have not been out of volunteers,” Hinton said.
The Community Help Line is grant-funded and operated by Community Minded Enterprises.
Another busy help line is 211, a nationwide service for people who need nonemergency help.
Staci Cornwell is the director of crisis response services at Frontier Behavioral Help which operates the 211 call center in Spokane.
“The purpose of 211 is to make it one-stop shopping for people who need help,” said Cornwell. The 211 help line has access to a statewide database of aide providers and volunteers, and since November it’s received 450 calls for snow removal help.
“Of those, 220 self-reported as being disabled, and 156 said they were seniors,” Cornwell said.
To find help for the many callers, Cornwell coordinates with Hinton, Catholic Charities and United Way.
“We’re beginning to get a lot of calls from people who want to volunteer, too,” Cornwell said.
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