Fernie Red Cross team lead, Linda Cryderman. Ezra Black/The Free Press

Fernie Red Cross needs help

Opening hours at the Fernie Red Cross are being reduced because of a lack of volunteers.

The Fernie Red Cross runs the Health Equipment Loan Program (HELP) which provides medical equipment to individuals dealing with illness or injury.

Its hours of operation are being changed from Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. to Wednesdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to noon.

Team lead Linda Cryderman expressed regret at reducing HELPs hours of operation.

“It was just too much,” she said. “They are volunteers and they don’t want to be tied up. A lot of them volunteer for other organizations too. That’s the way they are.”

HELP is volunteer-supported service that is made possible through the support of health authorities, donations and the efforts of thousands of volunteers and professional staff. The program is an integral part of the Canadian healthcare system and ensures the health and safety of clients, she said.

While recovering from surgery last August, Cryderman was loaned a walker, crutches, cane and a bath chair from the program.

“It would have cost a lot of money because medical equipment is expensive,” she said.

Cryderman is looking for a few volunteers to step forward and help maintain this valuable service. Those who do will be trained by Judy Summers, the former head of the operating room at the Elk Valley Hospital. Training can be completed in a day and candidates will shadow more long serving volunteers for a while.

“To get the feel for it,” said Cryderman. “Because there’s quite a bit to do.”

In 2016-2017 Red Cross volunteers in Fernie loaned 366 pieces of health equipment to 237 clients. The short-term loans were provided by donation, with no payment required.

“I think it’s a really good service for the community,” said volunteer Louisa Sullivan.

A person recovering from hip surgery would need a number of pieces of health equipment for their recovery, she said.

“They wouldn’t bother buying all that,” said Sullivan. “Here they can get it all for nothing and just give a donation.”

In addition to being a long-serving HELP volunteer, Sullivan is a former Elk Valley Hospital nurse. She worked at the local hospital for over 20 years and has been volunteering there for almost as long.

“It’s a good thing to do,” she said. “It is really nice to be able to help the people.”

The time commitment for volunteers would be six hours a week every eight weeks.

To become a HELP volunteer call (250) 423-4905 or email tlc4905@gmail.com.