Busy times at the Stettler Information and Referral Centre despite pandemic restrictions

A Volunteer Appreciation event will run Sept. 25th at the Carl Stettler Memorial Corner on Main St.

Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it’s still been a busy season for Lorraine Hankins of the Stettler Information and Referral Centre.

“We received a social services FCSS grant in July which enables us to support families and individuals through (the pandemic),” said Hankins, who is the Centre’s executive director.

“It will help with food supplies and transportation for example. We’ve also been continuing to do taxes for local families all through the summer and into the fall. We are also looking to partner with the Stettler Library to do some craft bags for isolated seniors in the community and in the lodges,” she said.

That would be of particular help as the community heads into the winter months and cases of isolation tend to increase.

“They’ve had limited contact with families all year,” she added. “So we are trying to come up with some bags that would be helpful, and help to pass the time,” she said, adding that group projects for seniors may also be something that could be offered down the road, too.

Hankins said that besides the FCSS grant, the organization also received some provincial funding for mental health and addictions initiatives.

The plan at this point is to produce a local resource and programs book, detailing the range of resources available across the community.

“It will be in print and digital form, and will be helpful for clients to access various programs and services, such as housing for example, or for help with employment. It would also be good for professionals as well. It’s a big project I’ve been wanting to do forever.

“We’ll also be setting up an additional computer system out front for people who don’t have access to a computer,” she said.

As mentioned, Hankins assists many seniors with any number of forms they may have to fill out to apply for various programs, from Canada Pension to Old Age Security to helping them to complete tax returns.

Hankins also offers information referrals – anyone with any questions about where to turn for specific assistance can call her office and be pointed to the agency or organization that is best suited to meet their needs from mental health to social services.

She provides guardianship, trusteeship and personal directive services as well.

“I also help lots of newcomers with renewing their working visas or Canadian citizenship or permanent resident (issues). We help families in crisis, too, with forms or we point them in the right direction to help provide them with more options and services.

“We want to make sure people are receiving help from all of the programs for which they are eligible. Sometimes it’s a housing subsidy, sometimes it’s a Canada Pension program question — all those kinds of things.”

Looking back over the past several months, Hankins describes the accelerated demand for services at the Centre – particularly in the early months of the pandemic.

“It’s been extremely busy. March and April were off the wall – I never got off the phone. Just the number of inquiries about federal programs – ‘Am I eligible for CERB? Should I go on CERB? When is the extra payment coming for Old Age Security?’”

Clients have needed assistance with everything from CPP to health care cards to assistance with wrapping up their taxes.

These days, Hankins is also hoping some of that funding coming to the Centre can go towards hiring extra help as she anticipates a very busy fall season due, in part, to the ending of CERB for one thing.

But one thing that does help in meeting the needs in the community is by partnering with other local agencies, she added.

Meanwhile, as events connected to National Volunteer Appreciation Week this past spring had to be cancelled due to the pandemic, a special day of celebration is coming up.

A Volunteer Appreciation event will run Sept. 25th at the Carl Stettler Memorial Corner (50th Ave. and 50th St.)

Everyone is invited to drop by for a free lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in recognition of all of the volunteers that help to bring the community together, said Hankins.

The theme this year is ‘Cheers to Volunteers’.

For more, call the Stettler Information and Referral Centre at 403-742-1155.

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