EWCS volunteers adapt to pandemic

Submitted by Barb Carscadden

ERIN – When the pandemic began and essential services shut down, East Wellington Community Services (EWCS) faced a year of challenges never before seen in its 37-year history.

While we continued to offer pandemic-modified services to our rural communities we initially felt a large void left by our 150-plus absent volunteers, who were required to stay at home.

But gradually, throughout the past year, volunteers demonstrated their resilience and commitment in their efforts to help during the pandemic.

At our Adult Day Program for frail elderly adults and those with dementia, volunteers have been the caring, compassionate friend who takes time to talk, listen and guide our vulnerable clients. But suddenly, physical distancing and space requirements meant that we couldn’t accommodate these valuable team members inside the program.

Fortunately a team of six volunteers, with their PPE, accompany clients on the Adult Day Program bus, ensuring that they arrive safely at their destination.

Have you ever imagined being unable to drive due to health or other reasons?  EWCS volunteer drivers provide an essential, reliable, service to many people in our community.

With the pandemic, these drivers needed to stay home, and rides were completed by only one or two staff. But these volunteers offered to help in other ways, through fundraising campaigns, food drives, delivery of items, doing handiwork, and more. Offers to help from new and existing volunteers were far greater than we ever could have imagined.

Volunteers are critical in ensuring that fundraising efforts continue to keep our charity running.

In December, volunteers distributed agency information to local homes in numbers that we haven’t seen before.

For a brief time during the pandemic, we opened our charitable clothing and bookstores, and temporarily welcomed back our volunteer colleagues to the front desk and the retail frontlines where they greet customers, spread agency information and raise funds.

Adapting to new health and safety measures, volunteers could be seen sanitizing the store, wearing masks, and ringing in sales behind Plexiglas barriers.

During the pandemic, we witnessed new ways of volunteering.  In-person Income Tax Clinics are being held  virtually by volunteers for low income clients.

People with specialized knowledge and skills offered assistance: a local Rockwood chef prepared nutritious frozen meals for our food bank clients, and social media posts have been taken care of through an experienced local professional.

Our board of directors has been meeting regularly via Zoom, each month.

Volunteers are what make a community strong.  They bring knowledge, skills, and a deep commitment to improving the lives of neighbours, friends and family.  They help us carry out our mission in a warm, personable way.

Thank you to every volunteer in East Wellington and across Canada, during National Volunteer Week.

– Barb Carscadden is manager of volunteer engagement for EWCS

Barb Carscadden