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Courtney Rancourt and Danna Slovak volunteered to help Stillhead Distillery produce hand sanitizer for distribution to healthcare workers, first responders and those assisting vulnerable people. Credit: Stillhead Distillery

COVID-19 response: 5 ways you can help

Want to volunteer or donate? Here are current calls for help in Cowichan.

This article is from the Curious in Cowichan newsletter. We’ve updated the web version with additional information. Sign up to get information like this straight to your inbox. 

It’s been a rough week for most of us. I’m counting my many blessings, including that I still have a job and am familiar with working from home. 

I’ve been doing my best to answer questions and share helpful information about the coronavirus pandemic here in the Cowichan region. The question I’m hearing the most from you: How can I help? I’m heartened to see so many that are thinking of others in this time of need. 

I’ve called several local organizations who are coordinating a response to this crisis, and here is the information I’ve been able to find on current calls for help. 

I want to work!

While many businesses in Cowichan have slowed down or closed their doors, others are overwhelmed and hiring. Grocery stores, fast food restaurants, shelters, and more all need extra help right now. Their staff are on the front lines, increasing their own risk of exposure so the rest of us can eat and get essential services. WorkBC is working to match people who need jobs with companies that are hiring. Contact WorkBC by phone or online. 

I want to volunteer!

One of the best ways to volunteer is by checking in on your neighbours who are staying at home. People who are isolated may need someone to talk to on the phone, or groceries and medications dropped off at their house. People who are working from home for the first time might want a virtual work buddy. Those working on the front lines might need encouraging notes or messages. The bottom line: check in on your neighbours. Use neighbourhood Facebook groups to find people who might need support and organize with others. Here are some other specific calls for volunteers:

  • Volunteer Cowichan is registering volunteers to check on seniors, help with food preparation, and more. They are connecting available volunteers with organizations that need them. Email vc@volunteercowichan.bc.ca or call 250-748-2133 ext. 0 and leave a message. People who need support can contact Volunteer Cowichan as well. 
  • The Beacon Buddies program is matching up people in self-isolation with neighbours who are willing to help.
  • A Cowichan Valley surgeon is collecting names of people willing to volunteer to help with the healthcare response. Volunteers will not be asked to be near infected patients, but might support in other ways. 
  • The Cow-Op is looking for volunteers to help deliver food from Cowichan farms to homes. Email marketmanager@cow-op.ca
  • Our healthcare system still needs blood donations, especially because some people are avoiding blood banks over COVID-19 fears. Contact Canadian Blood Services if you can help. 
  • The Maple Bay COVID19 Support Facebook group is a resource for everyone in Cowichan to look for or offer support.

I have something to donate!

  • Social Planning Cowichan is currently asking for donations of sanitizers, masks, strong dinner-sized paper plates, plastic forks, travel mugs, reusable water bottles and take out containers. The organization is coordinating with Cowichan service organizations to find out what is needed and distribute it. Email infospcowichan@gmail.com or text/call 250-701-3134.
  • The Cowichan Green Community can accept donations of non-perishable foods and household items to support people in their coupon program. The ReFRESH Marketplace remains open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays. Shoppers can access low-cost fruits and vegetables while supporting the organization’s work to get food to people who need it. 
  • The Healthiest Babies Possible program at Hiiye’yu Lelum (House of Friendship) is delivering hampers with pantry items, household items, diapers and formula to families in need. Call or text Laura at 250-510-8061 or email lsjolie@hofduncan.org to donate items, gift cards or cash to that program. 
  • The Canadian Mental Health Association has requested donations of food, hygiene supplies and camping gear to support its Warmland House Shelter and Open Door Youth Services Centre. Here’s the full list of needed items and contact information.

I have money to give or spend!

Service organizations and small businesses are all hurting right now. I can’t make a recommendation about where your money should go, but I can say that giving money directly is often the most efficient way to help. Look into groups that are doing work that means something to you.

Many local businesses are offering creative ways to access their services, including pick-up, delivery or online services. Buying a gift card for later use is another way to help. The Discourse Cowichan is currently asking businesses to share information on how the community can support them. We will publish the information in a searchable map to help connect businesses with their neighbours. If you own a local business, please share your info here so we can spread the word.

I can help keep my community safe!

Something we can all do right now to stop the virus from spreading is keep physical distance between us. Wash your hands, stay home as much as possible, isolate yourself if you’re sick. Taking these actions saves lives. By protecting yourself from getting sick, you also protect everyone in our community. 

These are the mandatory rules for social distancing in B.C. right now:

  • ❌ Gatherings larger than 50 people are banned.
  • 🚶↔️🚶 Maintain two metres distance from others.
  • 🏠 Stay home as much as possible, do not visit with friends (call them instead).
  • 🌳 It’s okay to go outside for fresh air and exercise, but stay away from others.
  • 😷 Self-isolate if you are sick, even if it is not COVID-19.

What did I miss? 

Who else is looking for volunteers and donations? Email me and I will help spread the word.