While COVID-19 has changed the manner in which people throughout Huron-Bruce interact and support each other, MPP Lisa Thompson wants to acknowledge and applaud the many local volunteers who are helping others.
“We are certainly blessed in Huron-Bruce to have so many active and dedicated service clubs and volunteers,” said Thompson. “I know of many who have gone above and beyond the call of duty to support local food banks and are taking shifts with Meal on Wheels.
From Southampton to Exeter, Kincardine to Walkerton and Wingham to Goderich, and all communities in between, “I’ve heard of service clubs buying gift certificates to local businesses and individuals helping any way they can.”
The MPP said it’s that local spirit that keeps our communities strong and safe. It also echoes what is happening across the province.
On Monday Ontario Premier Doug Ford praised the work of volunteers throughout the province. “Over the past few weeks, I’ve been moved by hundreds of stories of people reaching out in selfless acts of kindness to help those most in need,” Ford said. “It’s that Ontario spirit that is giving us the strength to pull through these tough times. If you have some spare time, I encourage you to sign up and volunteer because we are all in this together.”
On April 9, the government announced it was investing $100,000 in its partnership with SPARK Ontario to support the province’s first bilingual volunteer hub connecting volunteers with community organizations that support vulnerable Ontarians. To date, the response has been impressive:
· Over 54,000 users have visited the SPARK Ontario website to learn how they can volunteer;
· Over 3,500 civic-minded Ontarians have signed up on the site to volunteer, and over 3,100 have contacted community organizations regarding a volunteer opportunity; and
· 141 community organizations have registered for volunteer matching and more than 100 COVID-19-related volunteer opportunities have been posted online.
Today, volunteers are supporting seniors, people with disabilities and others in need as they stay home during the COVID-19 outbreak with food delivery, shopping for supplies, running errands, providing remote mental health and crisis support, and tutoring kids.Volunteers are also mentoring seniors on technology to ensure they are connected online, as well as providing mental health support to both seniors and people with disabilities by writing letters and poems.
The government has partnered with the Older Adults Centres Association of Ontario to help implement the Seniors Centres Without Walls model of programming, where isolated seniors can participate in group programs over the phone. As of April 30, 2020, 35 programs have begun running in their communities.
“Although it is critical for our most vulnerable citizens to self-isolate in order to stay healthy and safe, the lack of social interaction can be extremely difficult,” said Raymond Cho, Minister for Seniors and Accessibility. “SPARK Ontario’s volunteer hub provides a helping hand and reassurance that they are not alone. I congratulate the thousands of Ontarians who have stepped up to volunteer at this challenging time.”
“As I connect and host virtual roundtables with small businesses across the province, I’m also hearing about the tremendous generosity of our small businesses and the many ways they are giving back to their communities,” said Associate Minister Sarkaria. “In so many remarkable ways, these local heroes are demonstrating the Ontario spirit. As part of the Small Businesses, Big Hearts initiative, we want to highlight these acts of kindness. Please reach out to me to share the positive news!”
Through the new Ontario Community Support Program, the province is working with the Ontario Community Support Association (OCSA) and their large volunteer base to increase Meals on Wheels food deliveries and deliver essential supplies to isolated, low-income seniors and people with disabilities and chronic medical conditions. More than 500 meal referrals and nearly 2,000 essential supply referrals have been made since the program launched in mid-April.
“We all know that this is an unprecedented challenge facing us all,” Thompson said. “But it is hearing these stories and seeing neighbours helping neighbours that fill me with pride. I thank you all for that,” said Thompson who also invited people to share their stories with her. “To take part in the Small Businesses, Big Hearts initiative and share a story, please reach out to my offices either in Blyth (519-523-4251) or Kincardine (519-396-3007) or email email@example.com for more details.”