Armed with a shovel, the recent snowfall is no match for volunteers with the Snow Angels.
Developed in partnership between the City of Guelph and The People Information and Network (PIN), Snow Angels is a volunteer snow removal service for eligible service and people with physical disabilities. After over 20 cm of snow hit Guelph on Monday, volunteer Snow Angels were out shovelling driveways within 24 hours after the snow plow came by.
Program coordinator Emily Vincent said their phone has been ringing like crazy on between Monday and Tuesday.
“We’ve probably had, so far between yesterday and today, at least 24 to 30 calls of new people looking for support,” said Vincent.
She explains the program works by residents calling the Snow Angels to register and be matched with a volunteer for the season. This year, Vincent said 104 people registered to be matched with a volunteer.
However, when the weather is mild, much like this winter has been so far, she said residents don't call to join the program as they don't have the need.
“I’ve had many of the residents say that they don’t mind trying to shovel when the snow is light and fluffy, even if it takes them two or three times to do their driveway, it’s certainly a way for them to feel a little more independent, get fresh air and maybe get some exercise," said Vincent.
“But, they aren’t able to manage if it’s too heavy, there’s too much of it, and that in itself creates a real barrier for the residents to go out into the community, go shopping, do banking, and we know many residents rely on services coming into their homes.”
Now with lots of snow on the ground, Vincent said Snow Angels is working quickly to get more volunteers organized.
“Our program is set up more for a person to register, we don’t have a pool of volunteers who are ready to be deployed," said Vincent.
“(We're) trying to find ways to help all of these people in need, it’s a bit of a challenge, but we’re doing our best to ensure that we are helping people.”
While there are calls for help, Vincent notes there are other calls coming in to provide help.
“We do have a response from people who are wanting to volunteer as well," she said, "it does take a little bit of time because we have an orientation that people need to go through before they are ready to be matched with a resident, but we are trying to get that in place as quickly as possible right now.”
Vincent adds there has been an uptick in new volunteers applying for the Snow Angels program in the past couple of years. She said the only requirement for volunteering as a Snow Angel is being in good physical shape to shovel and is over the age of 14.
“They can help on their own, they can help with a friend or a partner,” Vincent said about those who volunteer as Snow Angels. “We’ve also learned overtime that it is a really great volunteer opportunity for families to just get out there and help get involved and help make a difference.”
One volunteer Snow Angel, Andrew Neilson, said Snow Angels paired him with an 83-year-old woman who lives nearby. Whenever he shovels his driveway, Neilson said he will help hers.
"It's nice to make that connection with the person you're helping," Neilson said about being a Snow Angel. "I think it's a great program."
Neilson mentions he signed up for the program after a friend, who is also a volunteer Snow Angel, encouraged him to join in 2021.
"I felt that it was the right time to give back," said Neilson, who is also a volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Guelph. "It always feels nice to give back and to help other people, and I think a lot of people who are younger would benefit from doing it and making connections within their community."
With plenty of winter left, there is still an opportunity for residents to spot a volunteer Snow Angel, or become one themselves. To apply to be a volunteer Snow Angel, residents can go to pinnetwork.ca.