Whistler Community Services Society (WCSS) is launching a new program this fall in partnership with Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Whistler and Pemberton. The program, called W.I.S.E. (Whistlers Inspirational and Social Elders), is a bit like adopt-a-grandparent.
The idea behind the program is to connect children and their families with seniors living in the community. The mentoring program was created in response to an action item identified by the Health and Social Task Force of Whistler 2020 aimed at connecting generations in the community.
"There was discussion in the task force about the lack of intergenerational connections in Whistler," said Janet McDonald, the Executive Director of WCSS. "I mean, there isnt a huge seniors population to begin with and then you have a large number of families and young adults in town who dont have their family here. Sometimes they dont even have immediate family here. Sometimes it can be across the country or across the world or non-existent.
"We actually started with the adopt-a-young adult program where families could take a young adult who was new to town under their wing and sort of be a bit of a support for them, maybe invite them to dinner once a month, be a home connection, a community connection. It seemed sort of a logical thing to do to extend to seniors and families as well," she added.
McDonald said the involvement of Big Brothers, Big Sisters was natural. "It made sense that Big Brothers and Big Sisters be involved as they have the whole process set up to do criminal record checks and all of that. So I contacted Kim Shellborn from Big Brothers, Big Sisters Whistler and Pemberton and she said that they were thinking of doing the same thing. Our timing was perfect. So we started meeting and hammering out some details."
It wasnt long, said McDonald, until Big Brothers, Big Sisters took the helm.
"Our assistance at this point is getting it off the ground and helping refer people to the program, as well as some financial contributions."
When asked about what she hopes participants will get out of the program McDonald answered, "A sense of connection, social network, again the intergenerational contact."
The program is hoping to have a minimum of six matches by the beginning of October and is looking for mentors, aged 50 and older who can spend two to four hours per week for at least a six-month period with a child and their family. Those interested in becoming a mentor or being connected with a mentor should contact Kim Shellborn at Big Brothers, Big Sisters at 604-938-9299 or firstname.lastname@example.org.