COCHRANE— The Helping Hands Society of Cochrane and Area is being recognized as this year’s Labour Day Parade marshal, going above and beyond for those in need in the community.
Erika Richards, president of the Cochrane and Area Events Society said Helping Hands was named this year because of their persistent energy toward helping those in need, and finding inventive ways to do it— like the Free Food Shed that’s taken residence at St. Andrew’s United Church.
Helping Hands Executive Director Chairra Nicolle, said it’s exciting to be chosen this year, especially coming off the tails of the pandemic and now being able to lead a moving parade after last year’s stationary Labour Day setup.
“We are extremely honored and excited to have been selected,” she said. “Looking back on the past marshals, it’s really quite a wonderful bunch of individuals and committees to be a part of.”
Last year, Jag Thind and his restaurant Mehtab East Indian Cuisine marshalled the static parade which was on display at the Spray Lake Sawmills Family Sports Centre parking lot.
This year Cochranites can expect road closures that come along with the usual parade business, as wheels will be rolling and horses will be trotting.
Nicolle will be joined by the other two employees of Helping Hands to carry the banner and lead the parade, and she hopes that a couple board members and volunteers will also be able to join.
In addition to the Free Food Shed, Helping Hands has other core programs like Caring Neighbours, Volunteer Drivers and Movers with Heart. All of which are an essential part of supporting those in need in the community.
“Our caring neighbours are volunteers who will visit for coffee or tea and to play cards, or maybe to change a lightbulb,” Nicolle said. “Just you know, little tasks arounds the house.”
The volunteer driver program is one of the largest that Helping Hands offers. Volunteers drive individuals to medical appointments around Cochrane and other surrounding communities like Calgary or Canmore, for a small recovery fee.
“Individuals who can’t afford a taxi or don’t have the resources to have a family member drive them— Our volunteers will do that, which has been a lifesaver for a lot of the individuals in Cochrane who need to see specialists outside of town,” Nicolle said. “Movers with Heart is a program where our volunteers have trucks or sometimes, we’ll rent a trailer from Cochrane Dodge or Cochrane Toyota— And our volunteers will move small moves throughout Cochrane and area for individuals who may be downsizing or don’t have the financial or human resources to actually conduct the move on their own.”
When a client requests help, Helping Hands calls upon their roughly 200 volunteers that are signed up to assist with different programs. Normally they hear back from volunteers within the day.
“It’s just the heart of Cochrane, everybody is so open and happy and inviting and accepting,” Nicolle said. “It’s in the nature of Cochrane to be friendly and want to help their neighbours,” she said. “I think it comes from that small town that just grew into a bigger town, but it still has that small town, help your neighbour feel.”
Richards expressed the same and said in a small town, people have to look after each other, and Cochrane’s volunteer spirit remains strong despite how quickly it may be growing.
“You see these people all the time, and there’s a lot of people that come here for retirement and they’re looking for ways to reach out and still be involved and meet people," she said. “I think that we see that with so many of these people and groups is that they put out a call for volunteers for something and there’s a whole group rushing over there to help out,” she said.
To seek support from Helping Hands reach out to their program manager at firstname.lastname@example.org or reach out by phone at 587-580-9448.
In addition to the free food shed at St. Andrew’s Church, they have other food security programs like annual food drives, their Meal Teams program, and Meals on Wheels. For more information visit helpinghandscochrane.ca.
The Labour Day Parade takes place on Monday (Sept. 6) starting at 10 a.m. and will begin from Centre Avenue and Railway Street, crossing down to First Street where it will run through Historic Downtown, then loop back around to Railway Street from Fifth Avenue.
The parade is still accepting float entries and anyone interested in volunteering to help with the event can sign up at cochraneevents.ca.