Around the world, across the country and here in the County, COVID-19 has changed how people live, work and connect with each other.
Globally as of July 27/20, over 16.5 million people were diagnosed with COVID-19 and more than 660,000 have died. Of the 115,000 confirmed Canadian cases, almost 34% are in Ontario. Devastatingly, 8,934 have died in our country and 2,799 of those deaths have occurred right here in Ontario.
Everyone’s lives changed overnight. Acting on the advice of health officials, all levels of government implemented regulations and safety measures to protect individuals, families, businesses and services. Self-isolation, quarantine and social distancing quickly became the new normal.
Health services were, and some still are, stretched to their limits. With initial scarce supplies of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) available to healthcare workers, people started sewing masks at home. Panic buying of basic commodities at grocery stores led to empty shelves and rationing of purchase quantities. Meanwhile, the need to socially isolate, wear non-medical masks, and constantly wash hands saved countless lives as most people adopted new protocols. Here in the County, our essential retailers responded to the new health requirements quickly and graciously, as we all learned to be a little more patient while protecting ourselves and others.
Underpinning all of this, business closures, layoffs and unprecedented economic uncertainty quickly stressed people of all ages. Many people didn’t know if they still have a job, or how and when they will return to work. Or how their workplace may change before it is able to reopen. In just a few short weeks, what we’d all considered “normal life” abruptly ended.
Uncertainty became the new normal. For those who lost jobs and for employers who closed businesses, government funding provides a degree of support. Short-term assistance in the form of deferred utility bills, property taxes, and rent payments give some much-needed financial relief.
While various forms of support are extended, the reality is that one day this too will end. And unfortunately, many people will experience the challenge of too little income while continuing to manage the cost of daily living. Some will find that their reduced income no longer stretches to cover all of their expenses. There may not be enough money for rent and food. People may find themselves food insecure for the first time in their lives. This is an unavoidable new reality that many are dealing with right now in the County.
How we are helping the County during COVID-19
Since 2008, The County Foundation has been building permanent endowments and funds to support organizations in our community. With a focus on key needs, we work with donors, grants, partners, staff and volunteers to connect our community and create a place where everyone can live, participate, and belong.
The first-ever Prince Edward County Vital Signs Report in 2013 established statistical evidence of opportunities as well as challenges within our community. Since then, our collaborative work with more than 60 community partners has helped address challenges in the areas of food security, learning, transportation as well as community safety and well-being.
Unprecedented. Life-changing. Devastating. This is the impact that COVID-19 has had and continues to have on the lives of people around the world, across Canada and right here in the County.
Recognizing the potential of COVID-19 to fundamentally impact food security in Prince Edward County, The County Foundation board made and approved a motion to create a pandemic relief fund. The PEC Helping PEC COVID-19 Fund opened on March 23 with a $15,000 contribution towards a $100,000 target.
Grants from this Fund are addressing food related issues as well as food and health related issues during the COVID-19 crisis. So far, local recipients have included:
- The Picton United Church Food Bank and The StoreHouse Food Bank in Wellington
- The new County Food Depot – as reported in The Wellington Times and The Picton Gazette and
- The Prince Edward County Memorial Hospital Foundation COVID-19 Fund – which received a significant donation from the Huff Family Fund
- The Food Collective for operating costs of the County Food Depot, which provides supplementary food for those in need. Every second Friday 11 am to 2 pm at the Picton Town Hall.
- Hastings Prince Edward District School Board Foundation for supplying grocery cards under their Summer Food For Learning program.
- Prince Edward Family Health Team for creating a Maternal Infant Centre in a separate facility.
- Storehouse Wellington Food Band and Closson Chase Winery for providing nutritious meals for migrant workers.
With generous donations of all sizes being made by individuals, families, groups, fundholders and businesses across the County, on May 5 the initial target was raised to $225,000. Thanks to grants made through the PEC Helping PEC COVID-19 Fund, Quinte regional hospitals have received funding for Personal Protective Equipment and related supplies.
To each and every person who has donated to the PEC Helping PEC COVID-19 Fund, we’d like to take this opportunity to sincerely say thank you.
To date, $198,245 has been raised. In the weeks and months to come, the economic impacts of the pandemic will continue to impact lives here in the County. This is why we are continuing to build a strong foundation of support here in Prince Edward County, so funding will be available when people need it the most.
The PEC Helping PEC COVID-19 Fund is just one example of how we are working to connect vital funds to people in the County. For deeper insight into what the Foundation does and how it supports food security, learning, transportation as well as safety and well-being, read our annual review, The County Connected 2019.
Connecting people to food at County Food Depot during COVID-19
Here in Prince Edward County, The Food Collective is a group of organizations and individuals who are committed to supporting food security. At the onset of COVID-19, additional food requirements – above and beyond the space and capacity of food banks in Picton and Wellington – were quickly identified.
Coming together, members of The Food Collective rallied to create The Food Depot which launched in the former fire hall portion of Picton Town Hall on April 17. Initially operating every Friday, The Food Depot has already served 389 food hampers to clients. It is estimated that the boxes of fresh and prepared foods distributed at The Food Depot have supported more than 994 people across the County so far. Clients can book a food box for pick-up currently every other Friday from 11 am to 2 pm by calling the PEC Help Line at 1-833-676-2148.
With more people Food Insecure, The Food Depot expects to be operating during the summer and into the fall, with opening days and times responding to demand. Donations from local retailers, the United Way and passersby have added to the variety and quantity of food distributed. Enthusiastic volunteers are helping to organize, pack and distribute food, answer PEC Help Line calls and support the project in multiple ways.
We’d like to sincerely thank everyone for their support and especially thank the Picton Town Hall Management Group for providing access to this conveniently located facility. The relief and gratitude expressed by clients not only lifts the spirit during these difficult times, it lets us know that we’re helping to make a difference here in the County.
The astonishing generosity of donors during this challenging time is reaching within the County and beyond to connect us to our larger regional community.
On behalf of the County Foundation, we sincerely thank each and every donor, supporter, volunteer, group, organization and business that is part of PEC Helping PEC during COVID-19.