Money raised by ShareLife will help fund a seniors’ outreach project in a number of parishes in the Archdiocese of Toronto. Register file photo

ShareLife to fund seniors’ outreach

  • July 21, 2016

TORONTO – A seniors outreach pilot project is set to begin in select suburban Toronto parishes this year, funded in part through donations to the annual ShareLife campaign.

Of the $12.95 million ShareLife hopes to collect in its parish campaign, $150,000 will establish the Seniors Outreach project which will be implemented by Catholic Family Services of Simcoe County in partnership with Catholic Family Services — Peel Dufferin.

“We are quite excited about this,” said Arthur Peters, executive director of ShareLife, the Archdiocese of Toronto’s charitable fundraising arm. “It is modelled after a program being carried out by an agency in Toronto and it will expand that program for seniors in Peel and seniors in Simcoe.”

Expected to launch in the fall, the program will initially be in six parishes, three within the catchment area of each Catholic Family Services agency. Although the parishes will receive no direct funding, the allocation will allow the parishes to receive support in implementing the program. Catholic Family Services will help with recruiting and training techniques.

The program is a response to a need indicated by Catholic Charities, the organization which assists in allocating ShareLife’s donations to 27 community agencies across the archdiocese. In 2015 Catholic Charities commissioned research on the isolation of seniors.

“The findings proved that this was a growing community problem,” said Rosario Pascua, Catholic Charities’ program manager for allocations. “So the pilot project now will focus more on implementing some form of community development approach model of addressing social isolation among seniors.”

What kind and how much support will be determined on a senior-to-senior basis, a critical factor when matching up the appropriate volunteer.

“You look at both the skill set of the volunteer and the needs of the senior,” which could range from a simple phone call or friendly visit to assisting with house work, shopping or attending religious services, said Pascua. “Sometimes when they are unable to get out of their houses the volunteers could even potentially just be praying with them or being emotionally present for them.”

To prepare the volunteers for their duties, a training program, modelled after the program used by the Sisters of St. Joseph Toronto who run a friendly visitor program of their own, will take place in the parish. Along with training, each volunteer must pass the archdiocese’s screening process.

But it’s not all giving for the volunteers, as they too will reap a reward from taking part in this program.

“For the volunteer it is like paying it forward to your community in engaging an isolated senior and offering your friendship,” said Pascua. “Sometimes it’s bringing the isolated senior back into parish life. It is applying the Catholic social justice teachings.”

The pilot project will run for 18 months. Should Catholic Charities be comfortable with the success, it will look at expanding the program to other parishes and other regions around the archdiocese.

“The end goal is to have it across the entire archdiocese.”

But the project’s expansion won’t happen unless ShareLife reaches its goal. By mid-July, the campaign was still more than $2.5 million shy of its goal with just slightly more than $10.36 million collected.

Peters is confident the Catholic community will respond generously as it always has.

“The campaign is slightly down from last year as we are heading toward the end of the campaign on July 30,” he said. “(But) our parishioners have always been generous. As we approach the end of this year’s ShareLife campaign we ask parishioners if they haven’t made a contribution to the campaign to consider doing so and support the work of agencies who are out there helping the people who need our help the most.”

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