It was the fall of 1994 when our community welcomed a new and important service for seniors and shut-ins, the “Friendly Phone Service.”
“I had read in the Sunshine Club newsletter that they were looking for people to phone ‘stay-at-home’ residents who lived alone and needed someone to check on them, and so I signed up immediately,” recalls Wendy Stanley, the program coordinator and director since the late 1990’s.
The RCMP had initiated the program out of the need of having seniors contacted. During two previous years they had learned that two Valley residents had been found dead in their homes.
“In May of 1994, we held our first meeting and by the fall of that year, we named the service and started phoning clients, so the service was underway,” Stanley said.
The Friendly Phone Service aims to assist individuals who live on their own to feel more secure knowing that someone is checking on them daily and it helps to ease concerns of family and friends who might work on a regular basis.
As a director/coordinator, Stanley keeps busy with the program by recruiting and training volunteers, as well as registering all the clients and up-keeping the records.
“Currently, we have a total of 30 volunteers, 21 phone once a week (three each day) and 10 who act as spares. Also, there are three coordinators as well as a spare coordinator. We alternate phoning every third week,” she says.
At present, there are 33 clients in three lists of 11, “but there’s room for more,” she adds.
If necessary, another list could be added.
Stanley, who was born in Vancouver and moved to Regina in her teens, married Al Stanley in Kaslo, B.C. in 1958. They moved to Port Alberni in 1962, where they raised their four children. They now have eight grandchildren.
Since her teenage years, Stanley has been accustomed to giving her time to the community by volunteering with various organizations, whether as a Cub leader (for more than 30 years), the Sunshine Club (for 24 years) and the Chamber of Commerce (as an Ambassador for over five years).
Besides her duties as director of the Friendly Phone Service, she works in the Sunshine Club office every other week.
She also held a number of paid jobs, which included clerking in an Overwaitea store and working in a government office, both in Kaslo and, for 16 years as a Handi-Dart driver and as a spare in the office of the Handi-Dart in Port Alberni.
The Friendly Phone Service volunteers are committed to serve those in need at no cost to the recipients.
The calls placed by the Director and volunteers are made daily between 8 and 9 a.m. from their home phone, within minutes of the time the senior/shut/in has specified.
Interested seniors and others who live alone can register by phoning Stanley at 250 723 5285 or the Sunshine Club office at 250 720 2505. No need to be a Sunshine Club member.
It is interesting to point out that since almost from the beginning, the Friendly Telephone Service volunteers have had an annual luncheon at many of the restaurants in town. For a few years, Val Hughes’ used to whip up delicious meals for all in her lovely home. “We only had to pay for the cost of the food at Val’s. The restaurants give us a good deal and we always enjoy our luncheons,” Stanley said.
“We have a wonderful group of people.”