The COVID-19 pandemic effectively turned much of the world upside down, so it’s no wonder one of Richmond’s pre-eminent community volunteer organizations is calling 2020 a pivot year.
“It was a year like no other,” says Ed Gavsie, president & CEO of Richmond Cares, Richmond Gives (RCRG), which has served Richmond residents for more than four decades. “And the word pivot best describes what we had to do. When everything stopped because of the pandemic, the volunteers didn’t.”
For example, early in the pandemic, RCRG was appointed by the provincial government as one of the 24 hubs across B.C. for seniors COVID response.
“We took on a lot of additional responsibility for seniors as part of the Safe Seniors, Strong Community program,” Gavsie says, adding that it required modifying how some of the services were delivered.
“We had to change our Friendly Visitor Program, which matches volunteers to isolated seniors for a weekly visit,” Gavsie says. “It became virtual visits, whether by phone or other means.”
RCRG’s grocery delivery program also shifted gears.
“We introduced a frozen meal delivery program for seniors, laundry pick-up and prescription drop-off,” Gavise says. “The seniors pay for the groceries, meals and prescriptions, and our volunteers take the orders and make the deliveries for free.”
For local childcare programming, all services went virtual with workshops for parents and childcare providers.
And RCRG’s biggest and best known service - the Richmond Christmas Fund - forged ahead with eligible families registering via Zoom and and volunteers preparing bags of toys based on the ages and interests of the children.
“Even with those big changes, we were still able to help 2,866 people,” Gavsie says.
Those services, and many more, managed to continue throughout the lock-downs despite a reduction in RCRG’s pool of volunteers.
“A lot of them pulled back, but having said that, a lot of people, new volunteers, also found themselves with a lot more time because they were furloughed or let go from their jobs,” Gavsie says. “And they stepped up.”
In 2020 RCRG had 496 volunteers supporting its programs by contributing 7,900 hours of their time.
And that says much about the heart of the community.
“People wanted to help their fellow members of the community, knowing people were isolated and needed help,” Gavsie says. “This community has always been one of the leaders in helping each other in non-pandemic times. That was never more true during 2020.”
As hopes for returning to normal come up on the horizon, RCRG plans to return as a vital hub for volunteers to tap into.For more information about Richmond Cares, Richmond Gives, and how you can play a role, visit online at rcrg.org.