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How to Find Someone to Shovel Snow

When You Can't Clear Your Walkway, Try These Ideas for Finding Help

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My elderly mother lives alone and has arthritis. Every winter, it's a battle for us to find someone to shovel snow for her. So the ideas I offer below are definitely based on experience. Many proud elderly people living alone (and others who are unable to do strenuous work) find obtaining help to keep the driveway, walkway, porch, etc. clear in winter one of the greatest challenges to their independence. But with persistence, you can find someone to shovel snow for you, thereby keeping you happy and safe during the long winter. Here's how:

1. Check With Plowing Services

Teenage boy (14-16) digging hole in snow, overhead view
Adrian Weinbrecht/Iconica/Getty Images

In showing you how to find someone to shovel snow, I'll present 2 ways of looking for help: What we might call "direct" and "indirect" routes. First the direct.

Do you already have a plowing service to clear your driveway? Then you just need to find someone to shovel snow for you on walkways and other areas that the plow can't access. If so, you already have a direct contact. Ask the plowing service if, for an extra fee, they will also shovel snow for you. If they say no, tap into their network of contacts by asking them if they know anybody who does.

Even if the plowing service does shovel snow for an extra fee, how much shoveling they'll do may be limited. But it doesn't hurt to negotiate.

2. Check With Lawn Care Services

The connection may not be as apparent as with a plowing service, but some folks who run lawn care services look to earn money in winter by shoveling snow. It doesn't hurt to ask, and again, if you're rebuffed, why not tap into their network of contacts by asking them if they know anyone who shovels snow? People in the yard maintenance industry talk with hundreds of people a day who are seeking ways to earn extra money. As the old saying goes, "Fish where the fish are."

If you currently employ neither a plowing nor a lawn care service, use the Yellow Pages to obtain some numbers and start phoning away. Such queries are often less fruitful than inquiring with someone you already know, but you don't want to leave any avenue unexplored.

3. Check With Institutions Known for Helping People

In A Streetcar Named Desire, Blanche famously said, "I have always depended on the kindness of strangers." Blanche may have been a bit too dependent, but it's not a bad idea to contact institutions (e.g., churches) famed for helpfulness and let them know you're looking for someone to shovel snow.

For example, my mom called the local Boy Scouts group, explaining that she was trying to find someone to shovel snow. The answer she received showed promise, although it didn't happen to meet her own particular needs. She was told that, yes, there were kids available to shovel snow, but only for the downtown area (where homes are within walking distance of each other). Living as she does in an outlying area, a ride would have to be provided.

4. Find Someone to Shovel Snow Who Won't Pose a Danger

So just because you find someone willing to shovel snow, that doesn't mean your problem is solved. If they don't have their own transportation, they may not be a good fit for you. That will often exclude kids from your list of candidates. Your response to that realization may be, "Well, I'll find someone older."

Fair enough. You may well end up finding someone to shovel snow who is older and has their own car. But I just wanted to take the opportunity to warn you about something:

There are cases in which adults have offered to shovel snow for nefarious purposes. These con artists want an excuse to scope out your property, as a prelude to theft. If anyone makes you uncomfortable, trust your instincts and refuse their services.

5. Find Someone to Shovel Snow on Craigslist

People often post ads on Craigslist, looking to shovel snow for a fee. If you're not Web-savvy, this might seem like a scary proposition, but I'll walk you through what you need to do:

 

  1. Type http://craigslist.org in your browser's address box
  2. In the right-hand column, click on the city closest to you
  3. In the left-hand column, right under where you see "search craigslist," locate the box where you can type
  4. In that box, type "snow shoveling," followed by the name of your city and state
  5. In the box under that one, select "services"
  6. Hit Enter
  7. View your results (click the links)

 

Results will typically yield a phone number and/or email address for contact.

6. Check Local Bulletin Boards for Ads

Starting with the idea above, we moved to "indirect" ways of searching for someone to shovel snow. These methods involve using a middleman, if you will, rather than speaking directly to a person and making your request.

Besides using the Web, there's the good old-fashioned way to find out who's offering services: Do the foot work (although, obviously, this may not be an option for the severely disabled). Many willing to shovel snow post ads on pieces of paper, tacking them up on bulletin boards at local businesses. Examples of places likely (depending on local customs) to have such bulletin boards are:

 

  1. General store
  2. Convenience store
  3. Gas station
  4. Supermarket
  5. Cafe

 

Others may post ads in newspapers.

7. Exploiting the Gift of Gab

Possessing the gift of gab can truly come in handy when trying to find someone to shovel snow for you. Are you an outgoing type who strikes up conversations with people when you're out and about? Then it will be easy for you to transition from chit-chat about the winter weather to remarking, "Gee, it sure is hard to find someone to shovel snow for you nowadays!" You never know what kind of information such a remark may yield.

Think of all the people you bump into during the course of the day:

 

  1. Fellow shoppers
  2. Postal workers
  3. People at the beauty salon or barber shop
  4. That nosey clerk at the general store who knows everybody's business
  5. "Regulars" at the coffee shop

 

One of them is bound to produce a lead, at least.

8. Check at Senior Citizens Centers

Don't overlook the obvious. If you're elderly and are having trouble finding someone to shovel snow, surely you're not alone. Others are probably in the same boat -- or have been in the past. Some will have found a solution to their problem, a solution that they will be only too happy to share with you.

9. Retaining Someone to Shovel Snow for You

Finding is one thing; retaining is another. Often, there are actions you can take to increase the likelihood of retaining someone's service.

Not all shoveling jobs are created equal. If there's been a major snowstorm, or if the consistency of the white stuff is wetter than normal (making it heavier), pay the person extra for the service. Don't make them ask you for extra money, show them you value their service by voluntarily paying it (assuming you have it!). Some folks are shy and just won't show up next time there's a heavy snowfall, rather than asking for extra.

Oh, and if someone goes beyond the call of duty, a tip is in order -- even if it's just a cup of coffee.

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