When the first wave spread to Toronto in March 2020, every corner of the city was upended.
Days into the pandemic, WoodGreen recognized an urgent need for support, particularly around food insecurity for our senior population. When programs like Meals on Wheels and the Toronto Seniors Helpline saw incredible spikes in demand, staff were reallocated to help deliver services and meals, carry out wellness checks and address the isolation of our most vulnerable community members.
This challenging time reinforced the precarity of many in our city. It demonstrated how crucial community service agencies are in keeping people safe and supported at home and out of hospitals.
Most importantly, it emphasized the incredible dedication and extraordinary hard work of WoodGreen staff, who stepped in when many other agencies were unable to provide supports and services and ensure that no one in our community was left behind.
Our teams worked hard to secure access to valuable PPE. With the help of our IT department, we moved many of our programs online and staff took the time to help our clients access this important care. It’s this agility to pivot quickly and meet the changing needs in our city that was most impressive. As the year continued, our teams were instrumental in keeping up with the evolving guidelines and protocols to keep our clients safe. We were able to offer seniors living in congregate settings on-site testing, flu shots and, when available, the COVID-19 vaccine.
While COVID-19 was the most important issue facing our staff and clients, WoodGreen was still moving new projects and partnerships forward.
One of those new projects was Bibliotherapy: Her Wellness for Success. This program is designed to help newcomer women who have experienced on-going stress to discover ways to improve well-being using language learning activities such as creative writing, reading, guided group discussions, and storytelling to facilitate language learning and healing supports.
Furthermore, our new Strategic Plan outlines how WoodGreen will continue to lead solutions and evolve with our environment. Over the next few years, WoodGreen will focus on ambitious goals to address a number of issues facing Torontonians today, including affordable housing and the future of work. In addition to continuing our programs, this plan charts a path for WoodGreen to respond to the growing needs in our city that are increasingly diverse and complex.
This Strategic Plan is a continuation of that strength we have in our organization, the strength we saw again and again during each new wave of the pandemic.
We were also proud to welcome JobStart to our team. JobStart and WoodGreen align in many areas including our mission and values, the vulnerable client groups we both work to serve, our shared expertise, and our experience providing employment and workforce development services.
In the last number of years, WoodGreen has been pushing innovative solutions to solve some of our biggest issues. From partnerships to new financial models to programs completely unique to this country, we are stepping into a role as leaders in the city.
The pandemic has been very difficult, and we’re not in the clear just yet, but it cannot be overstated how vital our staff have been in responding to the needs of the community.