Mark Taylor: A note of encouragement

4 MIN READ

As COVID-19 continues to threaten our communities, every single one of us is struggling to adapt our day-to-day lives in these rapidly evolving times. 

In times of community crisis, it’s vital to take care of yourself and your family. But now is also the time to find new ways to interact with our communities. From calling an elderly neighbour, video-chatting with a friend who lives alone, or emailing someone who may be isolated, there will always be ways to connect. There will always be ways you can help.

COVID-19 poses a threat to every member of our society, and we know that many people could not, and cannot, afford to adequately prepare for the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak. This pandemic is revealing the equity differences that already existed in our communities. More and more I am reading social and media stories of how people are seeing the inequalities that exist in our current systems. Some are seeing them for the first time. 

By Mark Taylor
VP, Resource Development
United Way East Ontario 

Many do not have financial or social supports should they need to self-isolate. Those who already face barriers —things like poverty, homelessness and social isolation—need even more help during this time. The effects of an unexpected crisis like COVID-19 will continue long after the immediate needs are met. Invisible struggles linger, and new and unexpected challenges will emerge. 

Every day, United Way East Ontario works in the communities of Prescott-Russell, Ottawa, Lanark County and Renfrew County to tackle the tough problems. And things are certainly tough right now.

People living in poverty, homeless youth, vulnerable seniors are all among those most affected, and they need our help now more than ever.

  • In-person social programs have had to close their doors, leaving seniors isolated and disconnected. Stuck in their homes, they are afraid for what might happen to them. They are worried about being unable to do anything about it. They feel alone.
  • For many, home is not a safe place. Physical distancing measures, while protecting us from the pandemic, are putting more strain on families who face violence and abuse. 
  • Families and youth who live in poverty don’t have access to technology that can connect them to vital mental health services, their online education, social workers, and much more. Without these tools, people risk losing the connection to the help they need.

In March, with the support of local public health authorities, municipalities, and dozens of community partners, United Way East Ontario launched our initiative to support our most vulnerable neighbours and community members. We’ve been working together to identify the greatest needs within our communities, and solve problems creatively as a group.

Over the past few months, people all across our region have been reaching out and asking what they can do to help.

Barbara Crook and Dan Greenberg have been annual donors to  United Way for many years. When this crisis began, they knew they wanted to do more by making a donation to our COVID-19 response. 

‘We felt very strongly that they needed to help the most vulnerable in our community, especially those whose needs might not have been obvious in the early weeks of the COVID crisis,” says Barbara.

“We did a lot of research about how different charities and social service agencies were responding,” she added. “We were really impressed by how quickly United Way brought together key stakeholders, and how they were able to mobilize aid so effectively.” 

Faced with such an unprecedented crisis, it’s normal to feel sad, frightened and helpless. It’s also logical to feel overwhelmed and angry. But one of the best things we can do to alleviate some of those feelings is to reach out and help someone else,” says Dan.

“A phone call, a loaf of homemade bread, a gift of your time or a meaningful donation to a charity that is doing good work are all ways to contribute, with whatever resources we can spare,” adds Barbara. “The more we take care of each other, the sooner we will emerge from this very difficult time.”

Generous donors like Barbara and Dan are making it possible for United Way to support those who need it most during this global crisis. As you take care of your family and those closest to you, we urge you to think of those who may need the help of their neighbours. The most vulnerable people in our communities need help now more than ever, and this need will continue for months to come. If you are able, please consider making a gift to support our Local Love in a Global Crisis campaign. 

Your gift to United Way East Ontario will: 

  • Support basic needs and ensure people have access to life’s essentials, such as food. 
  • Help seniors and ensure that vulnerable people who are isolated are also supported. 
  • Secure capacity for community services and partners to continue delivering their essential work. 
  • Enable access to mental health services and crisis lines. 
  • Provide support for volunteers who are rallying to support others. 

And when this pandemic is behind us, let’s go back to the beginning, and remember what this experience taught us about our communities. Let’s vow to never forget that we have vulnerable neighbours who face other kinds of viruses daily—ones of inequity, poverty, discrimination, isolation, and homelessness. As I ask for your  help today, I am asking you to consider how you can continue to help our communities in the long-run.  

I have seen some incredible acts of kindness, generosity and innovation over these past couple months. We can continue that momentum. 

Work with us to make our communities fairer, stronger and better for all of us. 

Then we will truly be #StrongerTogether. 

Thank you for always showing your local love. Be well. Stay healthy. 

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