Semiahmoo House volunteer Stacey Kohler (left) and South Surrey senior Rosalie Wessels stand beside Wessels’ garden

Program proves there’s no place like home

Semiahmoo House volunteers lend a helping hand to Peninsula seniors

For Rosalie Wessels, maintaining the garden that she and her late husband had created at her South Surrey home was no longer a possibility.

The 81-year-old widow had been battling cancer for two years and was unable to toil in the dirt like she once did, instead watching weeds take over her vibrant flowers.

“My husband and I have quite a big piece of land. We are on the end unit and we have always had a bit of flowers, it was always beautiful,” Wessels recalled. “People used to stop by and take a look. But my husband passed away about five years ago, and of course, I’m not capable of keeping it up. So it was an eyesore.”

Wessels said she had even considered moving into assisted living when in June, help came in the form of 30-year-old Semiahmoo House volunteer Stacey Kohler.

After Wessels expressed her concerns over her garden to staff at the Senior Come Share Society, she was enrolled in the Better at Home program, which partners volunteers from Semiahmoo House with seniors in need around the Peninsula.

Kohler – who represented Canada in 2011 at the Special Olympics World Summer Games – brought her gardening gear to Wessels’ home and “began to work her magic.”

“Stacey was so pleasant and helpful. When I saw her planting, I noticed that she was putting her plants in a pattern. It looked beautiful,” Wessels said. “It’s done something for me that I couldn’t possibly do for myself. Especially in this weather when you want to sit outside, you don’t want to look at a bunch of weeds and overgrowth. You should be able to see a few flowers.”

For Kohler, 30, who is a part of the landscaping crew at Semiahmoo House, the experience was one that she hopes to do again.

“I had a lot of fun. We weeded, pruned and planted,” she said, noting she had some help from Semiahmoo House staff member May Micla. “I would definitely love to do it again.”

Made possible through a grant from the Ministry of Health, through the United Way of the Lower Mainland, the program provides non-medical home support for seniors in South Surrey and White Rock.

According to a release from the Senior Come Share Society, the program has garnered much interest, with a wait list of people requesting services before it was even  up-and-running.

The services provided include light housekeeping, basic yard and home maintenance, friendly visits, telephone reassurance calls and referrals to home-delivery grocery programs.

Fees for the program will be determined by a sliding scale based on the seniors’ previous year’s income and their ability to pay, in order to accommodate all financial situations.

“Anybody who needs help should really go up to Come Share and tell them exactly what they want because they have ways and means of helping you,” Wessels said, noting that for as long as she can, she will be staying at her own home with her garden.

“It’s wonderful to have those flowers and just look outside and see some colour.”

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