Christmas is over and we are back at our service placements, minus the volunteers that completed their commitments in December. Along with a new month and a new year, we also have the new season of winter.
Winter offers different challenges for different people. For many of our participants it means higher heating bills and more isolation. At the Foley Mission Center (a CAP facility used to house up to 120 volunteers), we have already fielded many calls from people looking for heating assistance. Fixed incomes seldom stretch far enough to cover usual household expenses plus heating bills of $300-$400 or more per month.
In the winter it is often dangerous for the elderly to get out in the cold air and slick roads, so they stay home, alone. Getting to the doctors becomes an extra ordeal, so they will skip appointments, and skimp on meals to avoid going to the store for groceries.
Those who do have transportation cannot always get to the shut-ins because of the wintery roads. At CAP we have to be mindful of our donated cars and everyone’s safety, so we are not always able to drive when participants need transportation. This of course means the elderly are without visitors as well as a way out of the house.
Even the volunteers sometimes have to deal with cabin fever in a harsh winter. Those working in the housing and elderly programs are often grounded. Program vehicles are grounded when it is not safe to have the trucks on the roads. Many counties do not always have the resources to clear or salt the most rural roads. The weather can also make it difficult to accomplish tasks on the job site. Ice and sleet make it too dangerous to climb on the roof and freezing temperatures cause vinyl siding to crack.
So, although the white on the mountains is a pretty sight, the reality is that winter can be a tough times for those in the mountains. Most of us are already looking forward to some sunshine and warmer days ahead. We will keep praying for a mild winter season in Appalachia.
Debra and her husband Jim are second-year long-term volunteers, serving as Independent Living volunteers. Debra serves as the Mission Group Facilitator/Housekeeper for CAP’s Foley Mission Center. Opinions expressed in volunteer blogs are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of CAP or the Volunteer Program.