June 24, 2020
While we’ve all dealt with significant life changes during the COVID-19 pandemic, Calgary seniors have faced additional challenges.
“As COVID-19 developed, we heard a lot of fear and many questions, certainly around health and food security - questions from our seniors such as, ‘How am I going to get my groceries or prescriptions?’ and ‘Is it safe to go out to a store if I have health issues?’. A lot of people were just concerned about how they’d manage,” shares the Calgary Seniors' Resource Society’s Executive Director Lori Paine.
To help meet the new needs of many community organizations and supports, Calgary Co-op is working with these groups and agencies to get them additional help during this uncertain time through a new charitable initiative called Calgary Co-op Cares. One of the organizations that’s benefitting is Calgary Seniors' Resource Society. In addition to providing social work support, Calgary Seniors has a number of practical and innovative volunteer programs including helping seniors with shopping, groceries and getting to appointments. But the pandemic and social distancing rules meant a lot had to change, according to Paine.
“We had to look at what we were doing and how we were doing it, and make some changes quickly.”
Tandem shopping trips with volunteers accompanying a local senior were put on hold, leaving volunteers to do the shopping for seniors so they could stay safely at home. The organization quickly apprised itself of new rules around masking and Personal Protective Equipment. With the changing needs of the seniors’ community and adapting how it would need to serve, Calgary Seniors' Resource Society put out a call for more volunteers.
“Calgary really stepped up!” Paine says. “We were surprised by the overwhelming response we got—we probably shouldn’t be, because we know Calgary is that kind of city where people want to help. We received over 2000 enquiries and were able to bring on over 600 new volunteers.”
Part of the new volunteer crew was tasked with staying connected to the seniors who were now more isolated than ever. Phone calls were organized to check in on clients and make sure both their physical and mental well-being was being cared for. It also became necessary to set up extensive online and remote training for all the new volunteers, who Paine anticipates will stay on indefinitely.
“We’re now able to start looking towards the future and we’re really wondering what that might look like for us,” says Dianne Cooper-Ponte, Associate Fund Development & Community Relations at Calgary Seniors' Resource Society. “We are working to make sure we’re set for the future, whatever that holds, and are able to help.”
“We know there’ve been increased demands on our community supports and we want to be there to help so these organizations can focus on meeting the needs of their clients,” says Sage Pullen-McIntosh, Communications Director, Marketing & Member Relations at Calgary Co-op. “That’s why we’re joining forces with our customers to support these organizations during this challenging time.”
Calgary Co-op Cares Program was launched in April. The initiative sees Calgary Co-op matching online customer donations up to $25,000 and the money will go to six local charities: the Calgary Women’s Emergency Shelter, Calgary Seniors’ Resource Society, Calgary Food Bank, Brown Bagging for Calgary’s Kids, Meals on Wheels and The Mustard Seed.
“We are humbled by the generosity of giving and we’re so very grateful to be one of the six organizations Co-op is helping out,” Cooper-Ponte says.
“Calgary Co-op has always considered the needs of seniors in everything it does, whether that’s facilitating our shopping, organizing special hours for seniors during the pandemic, or creating initiatives like Co-op Cares. We are so thankful to be a part of it,” said Paine.
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