Pat O'Hara of Pawtucket shovels the walkway in front of her house on Hatfield Street Thursday morning. An early season snowfall left several inches throughout the region Wednesday night. Photo/Ernest A. Brown
PAWTUCKET â€“ Itâ€™s hard to believe weâ€™ve already had a snowfall this early in the season. For many seniors, shoveling the white stuff may be beyond their physical capabilities or not advisable for a host of other reasons, and they may not have anyone else they can count on to do it for them.
Thatâ€™s where the Youth to Senior Assistance Program comes in. Created last year to help seniors keep their sidewalks and the path to their mailboxes clear of snow to comply with city regulations, nearly 50 elders were aided last year, an historically mild winter season.
To ramp up for this winter, Seniors Liaison Beth Roberge, who oversees the city program, has for several weeks been reaching out to middle school and high school students at public and private schools as well as church groups, with personal visits where she pitches for volunteers.
The personal appeal has worked: Roberge, whose volunteer position was created by Mayor Grebien a few months after he took office, is a go-to resource for seniors seeking assistance and information, has already signed up dozens of student volunteers from schools throughout the city for this winter and is still looking for more.
Roberge also advised that now is the time for seniors or people with disabilities to get on the list for snow-shoveling help so they can get on the list and be assigned a volunteer.
â€śWe were able to help a lot of people last year who would otherwise have not known where to turn, and that was a mild winter with only one significant storm,â€ť Roberge said. â€śThe students themselves also take a lot of satisfaction in being able to help older people in the community.â€ť
Thus far, Roberge, working in cooperation with school principals, has received commitments from students at Tolman and Shea high schools, St. Raphael Academy, Bishop Keough Regional School, the Jacqueline M. Walsh School for the Performing and Visual Arts, Goff, Jenks and Slater junior high schools, St. Teresa School and the Blessed Pope John Confirmation Group.
Student volunteers will be assigned a senior in their local neighborhood to whom they will be committed through the winter months. As was done last winter season, they will be recognized by the Mayorâ€™s Office with a ceremony held in the spring at City Hall.
â€śBeth has done an amazing job of growing this volunteer program to fill a growing need,â€ť Grebien said. â€śWe want our seniors and others who are not up to the physical demands of snow shoveling and may not have anyone to do it for them that thereâ€™s somewhere to turn to.â€ť
According to the city snow removal ordinance, snow must be removed from sidewalks no more than 12 hours of daylight after a storm has ended, subject to fines of $25 for a first offense.
To sign up for snow-shoveling help or to volunteer, Roberge may be contacted at 728-0500, ext. 241, or by email at email@example.com.