The Royal Canadian Legion is moving forward with its outreach program designed to help those suffering from social isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic, with a goal of filling some of the specific needs in the community, especially for veterans and seniors.
The branch received a government grant of $23,200 from the New Horizons Seniors Program to fund the outreach, and has taken some time to determine what services are most needed in the community.
Home visits and wellness checks, digital connectivity and healthy food were expected to top the list, and in reaching out to ask seniors and their families, those services were indeed identified as priorities, says legion past president Al Howse.
The legion recently purchased a refrigerator for Newark Neighbours, so they could store more fresh food for those in need, he says.
“They’re very, very happy with the fridge we provided, and it’s helping with one of our goals. When we reached out to seniors, access to healthy food was one of the concerns we heard.”
Family members also told legion volunteers they were concerned about their senior relatives needing more social contact, especially during the pandemic, says Howse.
The program was created by and is co-ordinated by legion committee chair Elizabeth Richards, and two legion members who are members of the committee and make home visits. Jackie Dickieson, a long-time member, and Amy Casey, new to the legion, have a list of seniors, and lawn chairs in their cars, and will stop by as often as they can to chat.
That’s an important task, and one that could use more volunteers, which would allow for more frequent and longer visits, and an expansion of their list of seniors and veterans, says Howse.
He stresses looking after veterans has been a mandate for the legion since its inception. This particular program is the result of the grant they were able to obtain, and has allowed them “to take it in a slight direction,” with more community involvement.
Working with other community organizations such as Newark Neighbours and the library is part of the goal of the program.
The legion is partnering with the library by providing hotspots for seniors
who don’t have internet access, he says, and has also purchased tablets to distribute to seniors, so they can visit virtually with family members, do research on topics that interest them, or for entertainment — watching movies, or even visiting museums that are online. Offering some training goes hand-in-hand with access to the internet, he adds, and is part of the outreach services legion volunteers are offering.
“We’re also looking at arranging cheaper ways for seniors to access the internet, seeing what’s available that can help them.”
If there are needs the legion has missed through this process, says Howse, “reach out to us and we will try to help. At the moment we have a small group of seniors we’re working with, but as the program becomes better known, we hope to expand.”
The legion now has a dedicated phone line, email address and website for the outreach program, and volunteers are hoping to hear from more family members about what they can do for their senior loved ones.
To access the outreach program, call 905-246-4739, email email@example.com, or visit www.