By Justin Seward
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced recently that the federal government was contributing $9 million to the United Way of Canada to help vulnerable seniors with emergent needs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The funds were split between 100 of its member chapters nationwide.
Locally, that meant $40,000 was going to be poured into seniors needs in the southeast region.
On top of the federal donation, ATB Alberta donated $10,000 to the organization for seniors’ mental health and community services.
“We knew the money from the federal government was earmarked for seniors, there’s no grey area, it is for seniors and for whatever they’re needing now,” said Missy Fandrick, United Way of Southeastern Alberta executive director.
“The board really thought about it and ‘what do they need now?’ Like there’s no point in putting money in pickleball and stuff like that. They can’t do any of those things. What’s important is to even reach the seniors that are vulnerable.”
She said United Way of Southeastern Alberta made sure they made a strategy of hitting all four corners of their area.
“All of those communities like the County of Forty Mile, Cypress County, Medicine Hat, Brooks, Bassano and Drumheller will be receiving funds whenever the cheques get there,” said Fandrick.
She was in contact with representatives in those communities and reminded them that this not a blanket cheque to do whatever they want with but it was in agreement with those people, “that this would be directly funding seniors, Meals on Wheels or whatever meal program they have in their community.”
Other communities such Schuler, Hilda, Redcliff and Oyen will receive money, she added.
“Sometimes these guys are in debt to Meals on Wheels,” said Fandrick.
“So we’re going to clear all that up.”
The County of Forty Mile representative will take care of Bow Island, Foremost and the senior programs that are available in that area.
“The boards’ directive is to get that money out as fast we can. So nobody is waiting, nobody is in distress and that alleviates much hardship some of these organizations are facing,” she said.
“Of course, yeah, the hardship in the sense of they have a whole population that is either compromised and can’t go out or they’re afraid to go out and that’s OK too and /or they’re totally alone. Then you’ve got the organizations and Meals on Wheels. Sometimes the seniors that are getting Meals on Wheels, those are the only people they see.”
Fandrick says before Meals on Wheels had volunteers who delivered food and now because of the COVID-19 they cannot use the volunteers anymore due to their older age
“They’ve had to change how they do things,” she said.
“The to-go containers, trying to source them out. It’s a lot of an extra expense. So let’s make sure nobody has refused any food. Let’s just make sure they’re fed. That was our emergent need. Let’s get this going.”
Fandrick anticipates all the programs will have their funds this week.
The United Way of South Eastern Alberta encourages all concerned citizens who are considering gifts of financial aid to contact the office 403-526-5544 or donate through our website at utdway.ca COVID-19. From April 15 to May 31, the Government of Alberta will match your donation dollar-for-dollar. All donations received will remain in this community and will be distributed to those in need without delay.