The United Way of Northern British Columbia is reaching out to communities from Quesnel north to identify their needs during the COVID-19 pandemic, and food supports have been identified as a need across the region. (Quesnel Cariboo Observer file photo)

COVID-19: United Way of Northern B.C. establishes relief fund to get resources to the most vulnerable

There has already been ‘a huge outcry’ for food supports, funding and personal protective equipment

The United Way of Northern BC (UWNBC) has established a COVID-19 Relief Fund to help get support and resources to the people that need them most during these challenging and constantly-changing times.

UWNBC is continuously working with social service agencies and partners to determine the social needs emerging in the community as it works with agencies to collectively respond to COVID-19. After an initial discussion with many different social service agencies across northern B.C., various needs have been identified, particularly for seniors, homeless, those struggling with mental health and addictions, and those needing food supports, according to a news release from UWNBC.

“The UWNBC COVID-19 Relief Fund is intended to respond to the urgent needs in the social services non-profit sector during this extraordinary time,” UWNBC executive director Trista Spencer said in an email interview. “These agencies support the most vulnerable in our communities, providing vital resources to those that need it most. We are reaching out to communities all across northern B.C. to identify the pressing needs as a result of the COVID-19 crisis so we can connect the resources with the need, whether it be funding, safety supplies, food provisions, etc. With 100 per cent of every dollar donated to the UWNBC COVID-19 Relief Fund, we are hoping to quickly get supports back into northern B.C. to help provide crucial relief services, as soon as possible.”

Working with community partners, United Way has identified the following needs, while anticipating they will continue to grow:

• Seniors Isolation – this is a long running issue, particularly for our rural and remote region. Unfortunately, the current situation as amplified this exponentially, and these seniors don’t just have lack of socialization — they need food, prescriptions and personal care items to sustain a healthy way of being.

• Food Security – people need food, and we are getting reports of food banks closing or having no food or funding to help. Many programs across the north that need to close due to social distancing are also the opportunities that people have to get necessary food and care items. This is being reported across the region.

• Capacity for Community Services – a significant number of responses from communities include a reduction of hours, closures of programs or complete closure of the service agency. Resources would help them to continue to do their vital work.

• Mental Health and Addictions – not only is there more stress on the entire population at this time, but our population that deals with mental health and additions issues has become particularly vulnerable, especially with their supportive programs needing to close their doors.

• Volunteer Support – while there are some volunteers moving into isolation, there are others who want to help out. We are hearing that critical programs are at risk because their volunteer support has dropped or completely gone away. We are looking for the opportunities to deploy volunteers where they are needed.

The UWNBC region covers all of northern British Columbia, from Quesnel northward to all three borders, and Spencer says so far, there has been quite an array of needs coming through. After a little more than a week of outreach work, she says there is “a huge outcry” for food supports, funding to help pay additional staff, get supplies and to cover other needs, and personal protective equipment (PPE), such as gloves, masks and gowns, hand sanitizer and general janitorial supplies. These have been identified across the region — and, to their understanding, across the province.

Spencer says UWNBC’s outreach to communities is still underway, and they encourage any agency that needs support to reach out to them at info@unitedwaynbc.ca so the United Way can include them in its considerations.

“We know things are changing every day and appreciate any information we can get from the communities to understand what the needs are as we move through this unique situation,” said Spencer.

Spencer says there are many ways to help in northern B.C. communities right now.

“It certainly seems difficult considering the physical distancing we are abiding by, but sometimes, the simple things are most impactful,” she said. “Spare some food for a local food bank, call friends and family to socialize, check in on a neighbour through video chat, direct people to bc211.ca when they might need help and don’t know where to turn. And of course, small thing done together can lead to great changes — which is what we are hoping for through the UWNBC COVID-19 Relief Fund. A little bit can help a lot!”

To make a donation to the UWNBC COVID-19 Relief Fund, visit unitedwaynbc.ca/COVID19/ or call 250-561-1040 or 1-844-460-1040 toll-free. One hundred per cent of the donations made to this fund will be going back in to northern B.C. communities where it is needed most.

READ MORE: COVID-19: Quesnel Salvation Army soup kitchen switches to bagged lunches



editor@quesnelobserver.com

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