Local faith and non-profit organizations need your help so they can continue supporting the most vulnerable community members.
The COVID-19 crisis is taking its toll on local non-profits and church groups, which have experienced a significant decline in donations and volunteers because of the health crisis. Food, supplies and volunteers are needed.
Courtney Pankratz, coordinator for the New Westminster Overdose Community Action Team, has taken on a consulting role with the city’s working group for at-risk and vulnerable populations. On the volunteer front, she said organizations have expressed a need for food distribution, which includes transporting food or handing out food at different locations.
Financial donations would be put to use in a variety of ways, Pankratz said.
“That allows for a number of different things. Again, it is making sure that we have food ingredients. Packaging – because everything is take-away. We need containers to put food in, preferably environmentally friendly ones,” she said. “Supplies – the hygiene packages, protective equipment for the volunteers and the staff that are doing a lot of this work. Financial donations – at the Purpose Society, their health van, they have taken on additional work on top of what they have already been doing. So, making sure that we can actually fund and compensate people who are taking on that work.”
The Union Gospel Mission is putting together hygiene kits which will be given out to people. Items such as toothbrushes and toothpaste, soap, Kleenex packs, razors, deodorant, underwear, knit gloves, hand warmer, socks and a poncho will go into these kits.
The City of New Westminster’s website provides links to a variety of organizations in need of the community’s support through donations and volunteers, including: Aunt Leah’s Place; Elizabeth Fry Society; Fraserside Community Services Society; Greater Vancouver Food Bank Society; Immigrant Services Society of B.C.; Lookout Housing and Health Society; Lower Mainland Purpose Society; New Westminster Family Place; New West Hospice Society; Community Living Society; Last Door Recovery Centre; MOSAIC; Spirit of the Children Society; Umbrella Multicultural Health Coop; Union Gospel Mission in New West; Westcoast Genesis Society; Westminster House Society; and Western Society for Children.
Pankratz said she’s been impressed with the way people have been rallying together during the COVID-19 crisis.
“I think one thing is just being mindful that if you have a home to quarantine in and to make sure you have your needs met, there are so many people who have nowhere to go,” she said, when asked if she has a message for the community. “A lot of the warming centres have closed, so there are people who are walking around, and it is still quite cold outside. The coffee shops are closed. They are also quite fearful, they also have a compromised immune system, if they catch it. So, there is a lot of fear there. Coming together as a community to really recognize some of those experiences. If there is anything that you are able to contribute – I know a lot of people are having a hard time – but if it’s your time, or you have food items or any kind of supplies that you wish to contribute, there are many organizations that are happy to help put that to good use.”
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Pankratz said local faith groups and non-profits have had to quickly shift their priorities to focus on making sure people have access to food.
“A lot of organizations are working on a modified basis. Some of the churches have closed down completely, where before they were doing the meal programs. In terms of drop-in services, we can’t have people congregating, so that means things will look different. But how do we still make sure people have access? At Purpose they have a shower and a laundry; now we can only have one person at a time coming down here. Everything is being done outside, making sure people keep their physical distancing,” she said. “Because a lot of shifts have happened, it is also just making sure that people have the information they need and they know where to go.”
Pankratz said the city has done an “amazing job” to quickly respond to the crisis and to establish working groups to tackle a variety of issues related to the pandemic, such as at-risk and vulnerable populations. She said non-profit organizations are accustomed to working n the frontlines and have quickly adapted their programming in these rapidly changing times.
“I have been really impressed by what they have been able to do in such a short amount of time. With the support of the city, that can go a long way,” she said. “I think we just need to be mindful of the sustainability of that because we have a lot of energy right now to make sure things are getting done, but we don’t know how long this is going to be going on for. Having those volunteers and having the support from the community will help with a lot of that.”
Donations can be directed to any local non-profit or food-serving agency or to local organizations via the links provided on the city’s website at www.tinyurl.com/NWNeeds.