Forty years ago, a group of six residents got together with the initiative of supporting their neighbours.
They applied for a federal grant and started a part-time day program at the Mount Lutheran Church on Roper Avenue in White Rock – before the church transitioned to its new South Surrey location (2350 148 St.) in 1996-97.
With not much of an agenda or criteria, the group socialized over a meal and strategized to help seniors in need in the community.
Fast-forward to today. The Seniors Come Share Society has three buildings in Surrey (South Surrey, Guildford and Newton), where it operates 25 programs.
Last year, the SCSS year made 75,527 connections through its services; a 48 per cent increase over the year before.
The work is made possible with the help of 181 volunteers. In addition to their enthusiasm for helping others, the volunteers bring an array of professional skills as well as knowledge of a second (and sometimes a third) language – a skill SCSS is finding more useful as time goes on.
It would be a challenge to summarize the array of programs offered by SCSS, but one example would be work it did in partnership with City of Surrey and the Surrey Food Bank.
On the society’s website, executive director Sue McIntosh detailed how SCSS responded after learning that a group of more than 80 seniors often waited outside the food bank for hours in rain and snow to get their supplies. Members took action, and now the seniors are served refreshments and take part in social activities inside Chuck Bailey Recreation Centre (13458 107A Ave.) while they wait for their turn to enter the food bank.
“This simple solution connected them to our programs, such as our Senior Connectors, Walking, and Share and Care program. ‘A feeling of belonging,’ is how many describe their experience of these new connections,” McIntosh wrote.
McIntosh spoke of another example that shows the diversity of what the society can offer.
“An example would be a gentleman – I think he was 91. He phoned us up and said, ‘I can take care of pretty well everything in my house, but I can’t lug that darn vacuum around. It’s too heavy.’ So we got somebody to their house to help lug that vacuum around,” she said.
McIntosh says the society stays true to the mission statement laid out by its founding members.
Many of the society’s programs are geared towards helping seniors navigate what type of support is available to them, but it’s not just seniors that the organization supports.
Programs and services expand based on the need of its clients. One of those needs was a caregiver support program. “Taking on a role of a caregiver can become overwhelming,” McIntosh said.
“At our programs, caregivers have the time to address some of their own needs. In some cases, it just means they can go home and go back to bed because they haven’t had any sleep.”
The most notable programs put on by the society include Three Day Programs for Older Adults, Five Community Meal programs, Friendly Visitor programs, Senior Connectors, Better at Home and Caregiver Support.
At the society’s South Surrey location at 15008 26 Ave., guests can find the Seniors Come Share Society 40th anniversary Seniors Resource Directory. The yellow book – which can be found at several locations throughout Surrey – has more than 100 pages full of different services offered for seniors in Surrey and White Rock.