The COVID-19 Volunteer Project

THE OPPORTUNITY

As the length of the time that was mandated to social distance in March 2020 went beyond 2 weeks to minimize the spread of COVID, we knew there was going to be a need to restock on grocery items. Spike in demand for online grocery delivery services meant that the wait time to receive ordered items was as long as 2 weeks. Also, the fatality data from COVID infection indicates that the elderly and immuno-compromised demographics are high-risk. So, there was an opportunity to help our vulnerable neighbours get their groceries right on time while staying safe at home. 

There was also a spike in unemployment; double dose from permanently retrenched staff and furloughed employees. Hence, there was a realization that some of the members of our community might not be able to afford necessities such as groceries.

OUR SOLUTION

Extended Family was created as a platform that let willing volunteers’ pick-up and deliver groceries at no cost for at-risk members of the North Calgary community so they can be safe at home during COVID-19. The service offered also included free grocery hamper delivery.

Note: Our decision to focus on North Calgary was informed by the residence of volunteers, all of whom lived in NW Calgary during the duration of the project.

OUR VOLUNTEERS

There were 8 volunteers who worked collaboratively to ensure the success of the project. Some of the activities embarked on included website design, marketing of the initiative, organizing food drives, and managing requests from beneficiaries. The total travel time for deliveries was north of 50 hours and our volunteers were dauntless in taking risks in order to ensure our vulnerable community members stayed safe. Undoubtedly, they were the MVPs.

THE RESULT

We had a soft launch on March 28th, 2020 when our website was made public and we were officially operational on April 13th, 2020.  We had initially limited our service to just grocery pick-up and delivery. However, we identified needs to deliver free hampers to members of the community, and therefore, we held a food drive on May 2nd and May 9th, 2020 with successful donors turnout. The COVID project was rested on July 28th, 2020.

A summary of our impact is presented below:

  1. We did 2 grocery pick-up and deliveries for 2 families.
  2. We did 2 grocery shopping and deliveries for 1 family.
  3. We disbursed 69 bags of pantry items and over CAD$2000 worth of grocery products purchased with Co-op gift cards to 53 families (mostly in North Calgary) thereby, benefitting over 157 people.

APPRECIATION

Extended Family’s ‘COVID-19 Project’ would not have been possible without the tremendous help of gracious friends, far and wide.

  1. Special thanks to Jessica and the beautiful people at Neighbour Express. We were able to develop the first iteration of the Extended Family website in just 24 hours because of the permission we were granted to adapt what they had already built.
  2. Many thanks to the leaders of Journey Church that offered invaluable advice in setting up the program and provided awareness among the church congregation thereby helping to recruit our awesome volunteers. The members of the church also donated pantry items and funds that we used to purchase 80 Co-op Gift Cards.
  3. Thank you to Calgary Co-op at Crowfoot and Rocky Ridge for the gift cards discount. 
  4. Special appreciation to 88.9 Shine FM, YYC COVID-19 Volunteer group, and other folks that helped spread the word about our service to those who needed it.
  5. Last but not least, the Extended Family website used stock photos obtained from Unsplash.com. They were taken by awesome photographers: Tyler Nix |  Frankie Cordoba |  Nithin P John | Louis Hansel | Aaron Blano Tejedor

CONCLUSION

We are privileged to have been able to volunteer and serve in our community (North Calgary) during a very difficult COVID-19 pandemic lockdown period. The actions of those few months changed our lives forever and we aim to continue to be a source of positive influence to our neighbours, our Extended Family members.