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Helping the helpers

At Hilltop House, life for the 60 residents is made a whole lot easier by the efforts of the volunteers of the Hilltop House Support Society (HHSS).

At Hilltop House, life for the 60 residents is made a whole lot easier by the efforts of the volunteers of the Hilltop House Support Society (HHSS).

But a lack of membership and an ongoing struggle with current budget restrictions have cast a dark shadow over the future of the organization.

They are actively calling on the people of Squamish to come to the rescue.

"We desperately need some people to come on board because we'd like to see the Support Society continue," said HHSS secretary Betty Lloyd. "But if we don't get more members we'll have to fold and we do not want to see that happen."

Hilltop House struggles with an extremely tight budget for securing items such as appliances and equipment for its residents, and relies on the help of the Support Society to provide these necessary goods.

Because the HHSS is faced with an uncertain future, they may not be able to provide help for much longer.

"I'm constantly asking for their help," said Hilltop House activity co-ordinator Cindy denDekker. "They sponsor supplies and equipment that enhance the quality of life for our residents."

The Hilltop House Support Society was formed in 1992 in response to provide transportation for residents. They purchased a van with the help of fundraisers and corporate donations, and have been responsible for the full operation of the vehicle ever since - which includes regular maintenance, insurance and drivers to take residents from Hilltop House into the community to attend church, plays, luncheons and special events.

The specially-equipped van is also instrumental in transporting residents during the Christmas holidays so they can spend time with their families.

"We have a lot of residents in wheelchairs who can't get into a car," said denDekker. "They'd be stuck here all the time if we didn't have the van. The residents also rely on the van to get to medical appointments and other important scheduled meetings and functions.

"It's essential that we keep the van in operation, but if we can't continue with our major fundraisers it will be gone."

Fundraisers are the main reason the Support Society needs more members and more help. Their two principal fundraisers, the annual spring garage sale and the Fall Tea and Bazaar, require many hours of organization and manual labour.

Proceeds from these two events account for a large majority of the HHSS's ability to financially support its residents. They also receive money from donations in memoriam.

"The amount of things I get from the HHSS is way more than I can get from the budget," said denDekker.

She said that with the help of the Support Society, she is able to purchase items that would not come from within the "extremely tight budget."

With their financial donations, the residents have been provided with medical equipment, bathroom supplies for their wellness group, garden supplies and equipment, a barbecue and various tables, chairs and other furniture.

"We'd be lost without the help of the Support Society," said denDekker. "They do so much to help around here."

Originally, the members of the Hilltop House Support Society were all relatives of residents at Hilltop. But the times have changed.

"Now we only have one member who has family living at Hilltop, whereas a dozen years ago I was the only volunteer without a family member here."

The age of current members and volunteers within the Support Society is also one of the concerns for the organization. Many of the members are over the age of 70, and are finding it difficult to perform their duties at the major fundraising events.

"We need more young people to step into their place who are interested in helping. It's the garage sale we're having a tough time with. It's a lot of work and we need lots of help," said denDekker. They need volunteers to perform manual labour to help organize, carry, sort and price goods and set up tables for the two feature fundraising events.

"We'd just like them to give it a chance. We'll show them what we're doing and hopefully they can give us a hand," said Lloyd.

The HHSS recently sent letters to all families of residents at Hilltop as part of a volunteer recruitment campaign, but have received little response.

"The efforts of the Support Society affect residents in a big way," said denDekker. "I don't think people realize what a small group we are and what we accomplish for the residents. We do not want to lose the support of the society."

Lloyd and denDekker hope that by spreading the word, the positive community support of Squamish will bring some new members to the Support Society.

"This is their home - we need to make sure the elderly in this town are properly taken care of," said denDekker.

"We need help."

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