Visits help shatter loneliness

Peggy Williams and Heather Bueckert found friendship through BCS

Peggy Williams and Heather Bueckert have been friends for more than two years

Sometimes a person just has to take that first step to make a change for the better in their lives.

And that’s just what two Saanich Peninsula residents did when they were feeling a little lonely a bit more than two years ago. Today, Peggy Williams and Heather Bueckert are fast friends and are thankful for the Volunteer Visitors program through Beacon Community Services.

Peggy, 89, said she was feeling lonely after moving to the area. She and her husband David live in Central Saanich. David has some medical issues and Peggy said she needed an outlet, some outside friends to talk to.

“I was lonely and I knew of the SHOAL Center and figured I would ask if there was anyone there who could come visit,” she said.

It just so happens the centre, run by Beacon Community Services, had the right people in their Volunteer Visitor program. As well, it was good timing for Peggy as Heather had recently become part of the group of people hoping to reach out to seniors in the community.

“I was fresh to Sidney at the time and was no longer working,” said Heather. “I had the time and could use a friend or someone else to talk to.”

Once they were introduced, Heather and Peggy haven’t looked back and for the last two years visit on a regular basis.

“We look forward to Tuesday nights like you wouldn’t believe,” said Peggy.

Heather comes over to their home to see the couple. They stay in and talk, or go out for tea of coffee and these days Peggy said she thinks of Heather as one of her own daughters.

Like many other seniors, Peggy has family, but they live elsewhere and cannot visit often. Since she craves that social interaction, Peggy said she felt she had to reach out and see what the community had to offer.

The Volunteer Visitor program trains its volunteers in an active listening course. Heather said it’s an easy-going and relaxed course that teaches people about conversation.

“I was lonely too,” she said, “and really needed something to do.”

Peggy took the initiative to reach out, Heather said, and the pair made a great match.

“It has just been a  joy to be able to visit with Peggy and David.”

Deb Greenaway, acting volunteer services co-ordinator with BCS, said the program has been around for close to 30 years and has approximately 15 active volunteers who are visiting people regularly. BCS itself caters to some 500 volunteers overall. She’s hoping to increase those numbers in another active listening course being offered Feb. 24 at the SHOAL Center.

“It’s open to our own volunteers and to the general public,” she said.

It’s a 12-hour course, conducted Mondays and Wednesdays over three weeks. It’s designed to help people get ready to visit with people who are missing that personal contact for one reason or another.

Heather said it has made a big difference in her life.

“It’s the little things, between volunteers and clients,” Heather said. “It comes down to helping people feel like they matter.

“It’s as simple as being here for people like Peggy and David, lending an ear and just giving a darn.”

Peggy said it has made a tremendous difference.

“Many people are alone,” she said. “Having a visitor, a friend, can change that.”

Peggy said she and David will be moving to Williams Lake come Easter to be closer to family in an extended care facility. They have already made plans to stay in contact with each other.

To find out more about BCS and its Volunteer Visitor program, visit www.beaconcs.ca or call 250-656-5537.