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Residents stepping up to reach out to County’s most vulnerable

Linda Downey at the Storehouse Foodbank in Wellington. – Sharon Harrison file photo

This is the third in a series of stories on the effects of COVID-19 on County residents, by Olivia Timm and Sue Capon

In a community changed by the effects of the COVID-19 virus, one thing that remains constant is County residents’ drive to cope as best they can and help each other in the process.

As COVID-19 effects struck, the County’s two main food banks were running short on many supplies – surprisingly not toilet paper, at first – and the community has been stepping up since to help feed the most vulnerable in the community, and those who are not able to stock up at the grocery stores.

“In the midst of everything that is going on around us, it makes my heart melt for those in the community that are still thinking of others during this difficult time,” writes The Storehouse Foodbank, on its Facebook page.

And with no end in sight to a return to business as usual, the foodbank thanked the Wellington and District Lions Club for donating three cases of Easter Bunnies for children in need.

Volunteers at the Picton Food Bank are pre-filling donation boxes and delivering them to the parking lot at Picton United Church. – Ellen Brownbill photo

Ellen Brownbill, of the Picton United Church Food Bank, is also grateful for the increase in donations and dedication of volunteers as they face a higher need in a challenging time.

Brownbill said local businesses that closed were most generous in sharing their stock.

“Before, we were giving people three boxes of food, now we are giving more people two boxes. Monday night, we usually have three or four households come in. This past Monday, we had 10 people in and three people phone asking for delivery… 13 instead of three.”

“We have already had a substantial donation from the County Foundation and some folks are bringing cheques to the door. We know that word is getting out.”

She explains the food bank has never done pre-packed food before.

“Our volunteer base is of the susceptible age group. Clients remain outside in their cars, and as their order is ready, it is delivered to them… That’s a total change for us.”

There are 25 volunteers listed – typically a core of 15 work at a time.

“There are volunteers who are concerned, of course. They’ve maybe got someone living in their house who are more susceptible, and they’re paying attention. We don’t have masks because we can’t seem to get them for people, but we’ve got gloves and lots of hand soap!”

The volunteers are cognizant of social distancing but they’re not staying home, Brownbill said, “because if we stay home, people go without.”

Brownbill anticipates they will lose people due to COVID-19 and hopes some of the younger members of the community step up to volunteer.

“I think they will be more resilient to the virus, and less worry about family members with health issues at older ages.”

People willing to help can reach out to Ellen Brownbill at elbrownbill@gmail.com.

“We are going to start rolling into a lot of people wanting, or needing delivery. We are telling all of our volunteers to not go into people’s homes and to leave the products outside the door. So we will need people doing deliveries, and we will need volunteers to fill in for people who decide to start staying home.”

Monetary donations can be made at both food banks, and are encouraged over donating food items.

“The community will pull together – they have in the past. This community steps up for our neighbours and this is really about sharing food with our neighbours in a hard time,” said Brownbill.

One of many donations to the Storehouse Foodbank in Wellington. – Evan Nash photo

Evan Nash, of Wellington Home Hardware, said that when the pandemic first struck, he was stuck between wanting to make sure that everybody is staying safe, but also making sure that people have the supplies they need.

Home Hardware stores remain open as essential businesses that can provide things like repair parts, or a sump pump, cleaning supplies and toilet papers.

“We are well-established and set up to do deliveries to make sure people who are stuck at home can still get what they need.

Generally, he said, people are being respectful and trying to do what’s right.

“I’d like to see some of the older citizens staying in or calling for stuff a bit more. Some people are showing up for little items, when there’s really no need for that. Stay home, call us, we’ll drop it off no problem.”

The store is also doing what it can to support the Wellington Storehouse Foodbank.

“They’re using a skeleton crew to deal with a huge amount of need and a larger amount of work that they normally do. A lot of food banks in the county serve a lot of seniors that are on maybe low retirement income.”

Wellington Home Hardware has already donated bins of cleaning supplies, and Nash finds the positive is that the community continues to step up.

“When I asked for people to co-ordinate doing pick-ups for people who didn’t want to go out, I had a dozen drivers from every corner of the County right away, so there are lots of people willing to do the driving around, but the same thing applies – use your common sense.

“We’re very grateful for donations, so leave it on your porch and we’ll grab it. You can make monetary donations to the food bank by e-transfer as well. You can drop off donations to Dead People’s Stuff, Rock’n’ Rogers and at Wellington Home Hardware.”

The Wellington Storehouse Foodbank has been keeping the community aware of many generous residents’ and business donations – big and small – on its Facebook page.

“So proud of our Clippers parents who stepped up and donated $2,100 to our local food banks ($1,050 for Picton and $1,050 for Wellington). In all of this chaos, this is a shining example that together, we will be ok.”

Procter and Gamble donated diapers, wipes, laundry soap and feminine products; while Beach Street Bed and Breakfast dropped all a selection of its guest toiletries and Drake Devonshire also dropped off its food before closing temporarily.

Pierson’s Foodland and staff in Wellington have also been going the extra mile, stepping up weekly donations.

“We want to thank all the individuals, churches and church groups, organizations, clubs, wineries, Rotary Bottle Return and the businesses for all your donations and help at this difficult time. We can’t do what we do without your generosity. We are so grateful and appreciate each and everyone of you for making a difference to others in our communities. We are sorry if we missed mentioning anyone in our posts but please know we are thankful!”

Linda Downey also thanks all the volunteers at the foodbank for their dedication, hard work and faithfulness.

“This foodbank is able to run smoothly because you give so much of your time and compassion to help others in the community. I am so grateful for each and every one of you, and for being part of this team.”

Wellington Storehouse – 304 Niles Street, 613-399-1450 or 613-849-7403.

Picton United Church Foodbank – 6 Chapel St., 613-476-8516 – Salvation Army, 46 Elizabeth Street, 613-476-3159.

The County Foundation has launched a new PEC Helping PEC COVID-19 Fund top assist local agencies that support the needs of vulnerable people throughout the County.

With a $15,000 start up, the Foundation is working with local food banks, County Food Hub, The Food Collective, Food to Share, Hastings Prince Edward Health, Prince Edward Learning Centre and council members who are part of PEC’s Food Security Task Team and many others. Together, we are working to support the County during COVID-19.

Its goal is to raise $100,000 for food banks and initiatives and groups that provide food and health support in the County. Donations are welcome at the Foundation’s website.

For overall assistance, the municipality has opened a COVID-19 Help Line for anybody who is unsure of their options.

Call 1-833-676-2148 for assistance with community service and agencies, delivery of food or other essentials, connecting to transportation options, and sources for public health information.

The Help Line is available Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

County businesses delivering in challenging times

COVID-19: County businesses close, change and support community

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