Several local organizations got a funding boost earlier this month with the federal government’s Community Resources Recovery Fund. It’s goal is to help charities and nonprofits with their adaptation and modernization needs following the impacts of the pandemic.
Nationally, the program handed out grants to 5,500 organizations across the country for a total of $400 million. Local recipients included Woolwich Community Health Centre, which got $50,000, and Elmira District Community Living ($98,000).
For EDCL, the funding will be used to hire a volunteer coordinator and community relations worker for one year to develop a new volunteer program and framework to help them better recruit volunteers. While some volunteer work did occur over Zoom during the pandemic, the in-person situation is different, said EDCL executive director Cheryl Peterson.
“What we’re trying to get across to our volunteer coordinator when she does go out and starts doing presentations is to say it’s not a big commitment. There are so many options for people from like an hour a week or a month,” she said of the opportunities for volunteers.
Peterson explained that there are a wide variety of ways to volunteer for the organization; however, not all of them involve working with clients.
“We have a woman who does some gardening at our main office. She’s a real gardener but where she lives, she doesn’t have a garden. So now she is looking after our flowerbeds. She’s not a direct support volunteer where she’s working with the people, but she’s helping us out.”
EDCL provides several supports for volunteers who have little experience working with those with intellectual disabilities, Peterson explained. That includes an orientation and options for volunteering with staff present.
“[A] volunteer won’t be working with someone who has high medical needs or maybe has some behaviors. It would just be with people that they can come in and they want to work with a group of people in our day programs. They can come in and actually be supervised by the staff, like have staff around them,” added Peterson.
The Woolwich Community Health Centre has made a new hire with the funding. A three-day-a-week employee to support what executive director Rosslyn Bentley described as “social prescribing.”
The new worker will help identify individuals at risk of isolation, depression, or other psychological risk factors and help them access services such as those offered by Community Care Concepts. The new employee will work closely alongside the health centre’s primary care team.
“We know that people without social connection tend to get sicker quicker, and they don’t have resilience when different kinds of problems come along. So when COVID hit, if you didn’t have family, if you didn’t have a friendly neighbour, how did you get your groceries? If you didn’t have a computer or telephone, how could you call to get help? So helping people problem solve through some of those things and get access to the services they’re entitled to or programs that might be able to reach out to them what we’re going to use this position for,” Bentley explained.
The idea of social prescribing has been in the works at the health centre for a long time, she added.
“Our staff member is going to be working with the community care team here, but we really want to have her embedded in the clinic so that she’s next to the nurses and doctors that are making their appointments and following up with people who might be at risk.”
Other local recipients of such grants include Community Support Connections ($70,000), Community Care Concepts ($77,000) and Neruda Arts ($37,000).