They say it takes a village to raise a child. In fact, COVID-19 has helped us realize that our need for community doesn’t stop when become adults.
Penticton’s latest Love Local video pays tribute to some of the not-for-profit organizations that have been working extra hard during the pandemic to meet today’s challenges.
CMHA Unity House
One of these organizations is the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) South Okanagan Similkameen, which operates the Unity House Clubhouse for people diagnosed with mental illness. Closing the clubhouse was hard for its 200+ members who attend for social interaction, says Executive Director Leah Schulting.
“It has been difficult for people because the clubhouse is all about social inclusion and volunteering and working together as a family,” she said. “It’s a big part of many of our client’s lives to be able to connect with others in a physical space so we’ve encouraged everyone to reach out and connect over the internet or over the phone.”
The organization was able to adjust its services to continue offering a meals program, medication support and the services of a mental health advocate by phone or email. They also offer a digital course that helps people with anxiety and depression coping skills.
Donations are kindly accepted, helping to promote mental health in our community.
Ooknakane Friendship Centre
This not-for-profit offers programs for the local indigenous and vulnerable populations. During the pandemic, many elders were unable to get out of their homes, at home self-isolating. Many were “living in fear,” feeling very cut off from the outside world, says Nadia Cutler, program manager of the Ooknakane Friendship Centre.
The Centre provides food hampers to those within the Penticton and area. But for many, it’s not just about receiving wholesome food. It’s about feeding the soul.
“I had this aunt who made these apple pies, and to this day, I still remember my aunt’s apple pie. It’s like a time capsule – I can jump back into that memory. It’s like that with food. It has way more than the nutritional aspect of things. It really has to do with being feeling cared for and that connection of being nurtured,” said Cutler.
The Centre also provides a food truck, which it uses as an outreach tool.
“A few days a week, we’ll load it up and we drive out into the community and find anyone that we think may need something to eat – and there’s a lot in this community. We drive around and stop and check on them, see how they’re doing, and provide them with a meal if they like. We also have harm reduction kits and we’ve provided them with first aid. It’s having more eyes on the street,” said Cutler.
The group has also started distributing 72 hour emergency kits among elders, which includes food items, flashlights, blankets and other emergency items.
The Friendship Centre is always accepting donations to cover their costs of food, housing and services.
Community Foundation of the South Okanagan Similkameen (CFSO)
The CFSO mobilized its resources by creating its Community Response Fund, which provides grants to support the needs of the local community.
“When COVID-19 happened, the Community Foundation came together and decided we wanted to support our communities in any possible way that we could. We immediately created a fund with over $80,000 that supported organizations locally who were responding to front-line COVID emergency,” said Sarah Trudeau, manager of grants and community initiatives.
“I think right now, we have people in our community that may have lost their job, and they may have not accessed the Food Bank or used our resources, and COVID has really pushed people’s economic finances to the point where they need extra help, so we have really stepped up to help our organizations working with anyone.”
Before the pandemic, she says, the school district was feeding 10-15 families with weekly food hampers. This number has since jumped to over 125 families.
“You can see what COVID has done to this community,” added Trudeau. “It’s really felt the crunch with families.”
If you want to help out, you can donate to the Community Foundation’s Community Response Fund.
When COVID-19 hit, Penticton Soupateria was forced to close its doors as it looked for ways to protect its volunteers.
But the community rallied behind this organization, with funding provided by the Community Foundation and support from OneSky and Interior Health. The solution was to hire four paid employees to work in the kitchen, with only two working at one time.
“The Community Foundation gave us a grant to cover employee wages and expenses. OneSky offered to do the payroll for us at no expense to us, which was kind of them, so that’s how we have moved forward. And now that things have settled down, we’re trying to figure out how we’re going to go forward,” said Soupateria President Tracy Comber.
“We have some people who come here just because they can’t afford to eat… It really worries me that there’s more people out there that we don’t get to serve. I always try to think of ways to make it so people think that this a safe and kind place to come that they can get a meal if they need it,” she said.
The Soupateria also pivoted its service model to provide a bagged lunch service, now serving an average of 65 meals a day. Donations are gladly accepted.
Watch the video