'I want to pay it forward': Volunteers helping ferry seniors to COVID-19 vaccinations
Originally from Romania, Iulian Holca and his family arrived in Calgary in 2019 and received a lot of assistance from the community to get started in a new country.
And now he's returning the favour anyway he can.
"Helping other people in this way, I want to pay it forward for the help I received," said Holca.
His first opportunity to give back came through donating at Canadian Blood Services. Holca also volunteers wherever he's needed at the First Alliance Church and he's a regular at the Calgary Food Bank, donating his time to help sort groceries.
"I feel very happy and I feel like I help," said Holca. "I feel like I'm in power, I'm in charge."
His newest volunteer opportunity is with the Calgary Seniors Resource Society driving seniors to their vaccination appointments.
Emma Mattos is the program coordinator at the Society.
"He's one of our newer volunteers who joined us to help the vaccination effort and in his time with us since the beginning of March he's picked up close to 50 rides so he's been just amazing," said Mattos.
Mary Margaret Bergeron hasn't driven for 30 years and needs a ride to her appointment for her second vaccination shot.
"My husband is gone and that was my driver," said Bergeron. "But because I have heart problems, that's why I can't drive, I'm not allowed to drive because I take (medication)."
Holca lives about a half hour from Bergeron but he says that's no problem and he quickly formed a bond with his new passenger.
"They remind me of my mother," said Holca. "My mother passed away four years ago and her situation was she was blind and I know how hard it was for her, that's why it makes me feel good."
Mattos says Calgary Seniors Resource Society has seen an increase in people wanting to volunteer during the pandemic.
"I think people had extra time, their social lives weren't the same and they really wanted to give back and make a difference," said Mattos.
"In our essential transportation program we have about 1200 active clients and still about 200 seniors on our wait list and right now we're helping with about 400 to 500 rides a month."
Iulian Holca would like to see others sign up to volunteer and he says he'll keep doing it because the pandemic has left him unemployed.
"For the moment I don't work because of COVID," said Holca. "I don't have a job I have a lot of time and I want to spend it helping people."
Learn more about Calgary Senior Resource Society online.