July 8, 2020
While we have all seen significant life changes during the COVID-19 pandemic, many community organizations have faced enormous challenges. The Calgary Food Bank not only saw a spike in demand for food due to thousands of employers being forced to send workers home or close up shops, but at the same time it had to completely change how it was operating.
“It used to be clients could come in and wait in our lobby and then they could go through the line and pick out their food, but we had to totally revamp our whole building to ensure that we had adequate social distancing,” recalls Avaleen Streeton, Food Industry Coordinator with the Calgary Food Bank. “That meant nobody could come into the building—it's a total drive through model now. At the same time, we had to reduce our number of volunteers and split our staff into two isolated shifts so if someone on one of the teams did contract COVID, we could still support Calgarians. It’s gone really well, but it was a bit of a challenge!”
To help meet the new and growing needs of many community organizations and supports, Calgary Co-op is working with them to provide additional help during this uncertain time through a new charitable initiative called Co-op Cares.
One of the organizations that’s benefitting is the Calgary Food Bank.
“We know there’s been so much uncertainty and many new and growing demands on our community supports and we want to be there to help so these organizations can focus on their clients,” says Sage Pullen-McIntosh, Communications Director, Member and Public Relations at Calgary Co-op. “That’s why we’re partnering with our customers to support these organizations during this challenging time.”
The Co-op Cares Program was launched in April. The initiative sees Co-op matching online customer donations up to $25,000 and the money will go to six local charities: the Calgary Women’s Emergency Shelter, Calgary Seniors’ Resource Society, Calgary Food Bank, Brown Bagging for Calgary’s Kids, Meals on Wheels and The Mustard Seed.
The Calgary Food Bank made many other changes during the pandemic that Streeton anticipates will stay in place for the foreseeable future. Donations must now be left at a designated drop zone outside the building to keep staff and volunteers safe, or donors can use one of the many community drop boxes, including the ones inside Co-op stores. Pickups are now contactless and touchless. Staff and volunteers have also all gotten a crash course in the use of personal protective equipment, including masks and gloves, and cleaning and sanitization procedures were strengthened and improved.
One thing that hasn’t changed, according to Streeton, has been the generosity of Calgarians when others are in crisis.
“People have been beyond generous. When we weren’t sure about food donations, we saw more people donate cash online, and that’s great. For every dollar donated, we can distribute $5 worth of food. Given that we were doing about 220 emergency food hampers a day before COVID and then it increased to 350 food hampers a day when it all started to unfold, that generosity was huge for us.”
Streeton says the Food Bank is grateful that Co-op staff and customers are keeping the organization top of mind.
“Co-op has always been an amazing partner for us and is always thinking of us for donations or fundraising. We’re so thankful to be included in Co-op Cares.”
Calgary Co-op is partnering with XL103 on Fill Your Boots , a food drive that aims to raise community spirits and support for the Calgary Food Bank. From July 3 to July 13 you can donate and Fill Your Boots, by donating at the till, purchasing needed goods in store or giving online.
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While we have all seen significant changes during the COVID-19 pandemic, many community organizations have faced substantial challenges and dealt with massive organizational change.
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