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Woolwich launches support fund

Kelly Christie, executive director of Woolwich Community Services, displays a selection of food that will be available as part of fresh food Fridays and lunch crunch Mondays. As well as some toys for the children for Easter. [Damon Maclean]

Woolwich residents looking to help their neighbours through the COVID-19 crisis now have a very local outlet. The Woolwich Residents Support Fund (WRSF) is now taking donations that will end up aiding others in the township.

The initiative, to be centrally administered by Woolwich Community Services (WCS), was launched Saturday – what was supposed to be the big day for the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival – by Mayor Sandy Shantz.

“I wanted to do something on maple syrup festival day,” said Shantz of the timing of the announcement, noting there’s a need for a local response to the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

“It was council wanting to find a way to help people, to make sure people in the community were being taken care of.”

Donations to WCS and Community Care Concepts (CCC) can be earmarked for the local support fund. WRSF will be administered by WCS, with funds to be allocated through an application process. WCS executive director Kelly Christie and CCC executive director Cathy Harrington will the ones reviewing the applications.

Money from the fund will provide help to those in the community who need it, said Christie

“It will be used to meet their needs, whatever they may be.”

Just how much will be raised and how big the demand for assistance will be remain to be seen. It’s early days yet, and this is a new initiative.

“It’s difficult to land on … how many people we’re going to be able to support,” she said.

Both WCS and CCC are already points of contact for those in need of assistance. Likewise, the Woolwich Community Health Centre and Woolwich Counselling Centre will be channelling people to the application process.

Christie said she expects there will be an increase in the number of people needing assistance as the crisis plays out, noting there is often a lag between someone being laid off and turning to agencies for help. The need will extend to people who haven’t previously used such assistance.

“We are going to be supporting a whole group of people we haven’t supported before,” she predicted.

That’s likely to be the case even after the immediate health crisis has subsided, as the health and financial impacts might not show up for months afterwards, she added.

WCS had already seen an uptick in usage of agency’s food supports from those who already use the services. Where there was intermittent or staggered use, now those clients are showing up weekly for the “lunch crunch” program and the food bank.

For such food supports, the agency is hoping it will share in the $100 million in federal funding for food banks announced last week by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

That funding will be used to purchase food and other basic necessities, and to help organizations find new, creative ways to reach people in need so they can continue to carry out their work while respecting physical distancing guidelines. To that end, they will be able to use the funding to buy or rent equipment and other materials to help address the unique needs of the communities they serve and the health-related challenges presented by COVID-19, the government said in a release.

“Many Canadians rely on food banks and local food organizations to feed their families and find support in hard times. Now, with more Canadians turning to these supports, and donations and available volunteers decreasing, they need our help more than ever,” said Trudeau in a statement.
Christie said she’s optimistic the federal and provincial governments will provide funding for food banks if demand exceeds capacity.

“I’m confident that we will see the financial support as we need it.”

Access to the Woolwich Residents Support Fund  is available by contacting WCS or Community Care Concepts. Donations to the WRSF may be mailed to Woolwich Community Services, 5 Memorial Ave., Elmira, ON  N3B 2P6  or through the website (www.woolwichcommunityservices.org) on the WCS “donate” page.

“People in this community have each other’s backs,” said Christie.

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