Loblaws and Sidewalk Labs step up to support WoodGreen in delivering care packages to seniors during COVID-19
At WoodGreen, we specialize in supporting seniors to participate fully in their community and age at home safely, with dignity and independence. Keeping people safe at home and out of the hospital is something WoodGreen has been doing for 80 years. During this crisis WoodGreen’s role is even more important, because by keeping people safe in their homes we enable the hospitals to focus on those folks who are very ill and need critical medical care.
When COVID-19 hit, it meant that our community of seniors became more isolated than ever, no longer able to attend our adult day programming where they would enjoy group exercise classes, card games and group lunches. Many of whom not only looked forward to, but depended on our programs to get much needed social interaction and a healthy meal.
With Toronto Public Health instructing those aged 70 and older to stay at home, the lives of the seniors we work with changed overnight. No longer able to enjoy community programs and were all of a sudden faced with the inability to go out and get their own food.
A complex problem needed a solution — and fast!
Our staff were quick to respond, checking in to see what our clients needed in terms of supplies. What kind of food and goods did they need to help them stay at home safely? Almost immediately, we realized we wouldn’t be able to make single trips because of the limits stores were placing on items. We needed to buy in bulk.
John Brodhead, a WoodGreen Board Member and the Director of Policy and Strategy at Sidewalk Labs, reached out to executives at the Leslieville Loblaws store to see how they could help. They immediately offered to organize our large delivery and had it ready for our little van for pick up in a few hours.
Thanks to generous donations from The Raymond Chang Foundation, Dream, Newpoint Developments, Daniels, and Sidewalk Labs towards our #COVID-19commitment challenge, we were able to pay for these groceries.
Another logistical challenge was getting vehicles and people to pick up the groceries at Loblaws and then to drop them off at WoodGreen’s Danforth Avenue headquarters.
We repurposed our buses that were not in use given our programming suspension, but we still did not have enough vehicles to do this run efficiently. John Brodhead also reached out to his colleagues at Sidewalk Labs to see if anyone would volunteer.
Amazingly, ten generous people showed up and made magic happen. This team is now picking up groceries and dropping them off on a weekly basis.
“WoodGreen is a great organization in a community that Sidewalk Labs is hoping to be a part of soon. Many of our employees live nearby and they were keen to support their neighbourhood. We are thrilled to help,” said Brodhead.
Once the groceries were dropped off at our headquarters, we got to work to make care packages from these groceries.
“WoodGreen’s staff play a huge role in the community side of healthcare here in Toronto by continuing to support our isolated seniors and care for the most vulnerable members of our community,” said Teresa Vasilopoulos, Executive Director, The WoodGreen Foundation. “Staff are still working hard to keep clients out of hospitals and safe in their homes. Requests for help with purchasing essential items have spiked during this difficult time, particularly for those over 70 who are being advised to stay home for their own health and safety. It has been our pleasure to come together to pack hundreds of bags of vital supplies to deliver to those who need them most.”
We were able to deliver over 300 care packages for seniors who participate in WoodGreen’s programs, and our hope is to do 500 on a weekly basis going forward for as long as this COVID-19 pandemic lasts. We are heartened to see our community come together to support us during this unprecedented time.
Brian, WoodGreen tenant, pictured above has been receiving groceries weekly.
“You are the greatest and everything has been wonderful. This is so helpful because I don’t go out because I am afraid of getting sick and it’s always so nice to see you ladies. This means so much to me and I love you guys!”
L.L., WoodGreen Housing Tenant
“I am so happy to have the bag of groceries. I am a low-income senior. This also helps me feel safe because I know I don’t need to go outside now!”
J.O., WoodGreen Housing Tenant
“I am so thankful for the bag because it means fewer trips to the grocery store, which reduces the risk of exposing myself and my children to the virus. It also helps me to save money. Thank you!”
Everton, WoodGreen Housing Tenant
“Anything that I can get is ok for me, thank you! This is very helpful!”
Beyond ensuring food security, our staff continues to work with our senior community to develop innovative ways to support them during this time, including offering virtual programming and friendly phone calls.
As we all settle in for a long haul – keeping our spirits up will become increasingly important.