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Bow Valley comes together during COVID-19 pandemic

"Canmore never fails to surprise me. We just live in an amazing community and it's wonderful how everyone gets together to help."

CANMORE – Neighbours are stepping up in this time of need for those who can’t step out.

Since the announcement of COVID-19 hitting Alberta more than two weeks ago, the provincial government has asked the public to take extraordinary measures in preventing the spread of the highly-contagious respiratory virus, including quarantining and self-isolating.

This has resulted in a number of individuals, partners and families who were now ordered to hunker down and not leave their homes for two-weeks creating problems for those who need to leave their homes for essential services, such as grocery shopping or picking up prescriptions. 

A Bow Valley local noticed what was happening and drew on her own past experiences to create a solution for those who cannot leave their homes.

Creator of the local children's charity Hope for Kids, a local non-profit based in Canmore with the mission to ease some of the stress families face with a child, or relative, that has serious health issues, Amanda Carrington said she knows the importance of community coming together during times of crisis. 

“It’s hard being in isolation and looking after a sick child, or sick relative. I wanted to find a way to help people and social media is such a powerful tool,” Carrington said.

Now admin of the Stone Soup Canmore Facebook group that was launched last week, Carrington said it is a place where people who are not in quarantine or isolation can offer services such as grocery shopping, picking up prescriptions and dog walking while also sharing homeschooling and mental health resources.

“I kept seeing little storylines about COVID-19 and thought it is going to arrive here and I kept seeing videos of people in isolation and sick people and sick kids and it had a big effect on me,” Carrington said. 

As of Tuesday (March 24), there were 358 confirmed positive cases in the province with the majority in the Calgary zone, seven people hospitalized and two deaths recorded. The Canmore region has five positive cases, according to the Alberta Health Services website's geospatial data on Thursday morning (March 26).

The Town of Canmore's Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) department is also looking for ways to support people after the government announced $30 million to go towards FCSS groups across the province.

“How that will look and how the access will be is not known yet,” said Tara Gilchrist, FCSS supervisor with the town.

Wanting to focus on vulnerable seniors and vulnerable families, Gilchrist said this funding is different because typically the provincial government kicks in 80 per cent of the funding, while the municipality is expected to provide the remaining 20 per cent. But with the recently announced funding, there is no matching requirement.

The Town might also be able to use the funds for services outside the FCSS Act, which currently does not allow FCSS to provide basic needs support. 

“With approval from the [government], we can support outside the guidelines of the FCSS Act and regulation," Gilchrist said. "We have the ability to asses the needs as they come forward ... and find the way to get support to people as we move forward.

“We are just starting to see the beginning of the impact and we will have to figure out how to move forward – we don’t want to duplicate services.”

Meanwhile, the humble grassroots Stone Soup group has grown to almost 2,000 members in over a week with more than 80 posts a day from community members offering services and resources.

“It has been kind of overwhelming,” Carrington said with a small laugh. 

“We are definitely keeping busy and there has been so much generosity from individuals – everyone is so willing to help out.”

And the Facebook group can be for anyone, Carrington said.

Not only for those offering pick-up and delivery services, the admin said the page is also a great place to share information, including which businesses are now offering delivery, and as a resource for those looking for online help, whether with mental health, yoga poses, or parents who are now thrown into the world of homeschooling.

“There are a lot of online resources that are free, lots of homeschooling resources, so kids can do schoolwork or yoga and things at home … kids are home and people are like, ‘Ah, what do I do,’ ” she said.

A Stone Soup Banff Facebook group was also started with about 580 members, to create a support network where people can “post items you need that aren’t available in stores, or if you have extra to share.”

Carrington said the support from the valley has been surreal, noting the first week the Canmore group went live, it was mostly people offering to help.

“It’s hard because no one has ever been through anything like this before, so it’s all uncharted,” she said.

“[But] Canmore never fails to surprise me. We just live in an amazing community and it's wonderful how everyone gets together to help.”

For more information or to offer help to a neighbour in need, join the Soup Stone Canmore or Soup Stone Banff Facebook pages.


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