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How can you help East Coast charities, non-profits hit hard by COVID-19?

Members of the walk team, Evelyn's Echoes, who walked in memory of Evelyn Kelly at the 2019 IG Wealth Management Walk for Alzheimer’s in Sydney, NS. Pictured are Evelyn's daughter-in-law, Deb Murray, left, and daughter, Sandra Kelly. This year, fundraisers for charities are much different due to COVID-19 and are largely being held online.
Members of the walk team, Evelyn's Echoes, who walked in memory of Evelyn Kelly at the 2019 IG Wealth Management Walk for Alzheimer’s in Sydney, NS. Pictured are Evelyn's daughter-in-law, Deb Murray, left, and daughter, Sandra Kelly. This year, fundraisers for charities are much different due to COVID-19 and are largely being held online. - Contributed

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way charities and non-profit organizations are providing services significantly.

While many staff are working from home, large annual fundraisers such as walks, relays and ball tournaments are currently a thing of the past.

In a press release dated April 21, Imagine Canada welcomed the federal government’s $350 million Emergency Community Support Fund (ECSF), noting it will alleviate some of the pressure on charities and non-profits.

However, the organization, which represents 170,000 charities and non-profits throughout the country, noted that the size of the ECSF is limited compared to the immense revenue losses charities have and will continue to experience.

Imagine Canada’s initial projections predict the COVID-19 pandemic will reduce charities’ revenues by between $9 billion and $15 billion.

“Additional support is necessary to cover core operational costs that allow charities to keep their lights on and continue their programming amidst the added challenges COVID-19 presents,” the release noted.

PEI’s Gifts from the Heart founder and chief executive officer, Betty Begg, ensures fresh fruits and vegetables are part of the hampers put together for low-income families and others who need help.
PEI’s Gifts from the Heart founder and chief executive officer, Betty Begg, ensures fresh fruits and vegetables are part of the hampers put together for low-income families and others who need help.

Alzheimer Society of Nova Scotia chief executive officer John Britton said that while both provincial and federal governments are doing “a stand-up job” in offering support such as the ECSF, COVID-19 is shining a spotlight on problems that already existed for the not-for-profit sector long before the pandemic struck.

In referencing the ECSF, he said, “the problem with that and with any grants is, right now, I don’t have the resource to do new things … I need to keep the lights on. I need to keep my staff paid. That’s what we need support with, but all of the available funds are – show us what you are going to do with this money in terms of impacting people with dementia. The society is already impacting people with dementia,” Britton said.

“We need people to give us money … and say use this money in the best way you can to support people with dementia. And, until we get to that level, we are always going to be starting from a position of weakness as a not-for-profit.”

Briton said the society made a quick and proactive decision early into the pandemic to close the office but not lay-off staff.

“Our approach to the pandemic was we will do whatever we need to do to get through it so we can remain available and accessible to our clients with dementia,” Britton said.

While staff are working from home, he said, COVID-19 is still significantly impacting the society’s ability to raise money. Fundraising constitutes 57 per cent of the annual budget, he said.

For Alzheimer societies across the country, the annual Walk for Alzheimer’s is the biggest fundraiser. In Nova Scotia, Britton said, the walk raises about $300,000 annually.

“We are looking at about a 70 per cent loss in revenue on the walk, and that’s pretty significant.”

This year’s event will be a virtual walk, taking place across the country on May 31. People are encouraged to join the walk online by visiting www.walkforalzheimers.ca.

The society continues to offer virtual programs and the InfoLine, where staff have personal connections with the caller through phone conversations, remains fully operational.

“We use our InfoLine as a pipeline to our other programs and services,” Britton added.

While face-to-face programming is on hold, staff are enthusiastic about finding new ways to reach clients and their families, including Friday afternoon information and conversations via Zoom. There are also weekly informal sessions, where people can chat online about dementia.

The society’s website also offers a wealth of information.

“We are still here for people dealing with the realities of dementia and we will still be here when this crisis is over,” Britton said.

Cancer doesn’t stop for COVID

Al Pelley, director, revenue development with the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS), NL Division, said in-person fundraising events such as the daffodil campaign, which normally takes place in April, and community and school Relay for Life events, have been cancelled or postponed.

The Canadian Cancer Society 2019 Relay for Life in Bonavista, NL. This year, the Relay for Life will instead happen virtually due to COVID-19.
The Canadian Cancer Society 2019 Relay for Life in Bonavista, NL. This year, the Relay for Life will instead happen virtually due to COVID-19.

“The impact to our revenue (nationwide) in April was around $20 million,” Pelley said.

CCS is hosting an online fundraiser, dubbed Digital Daffodil, where people can honour someone by dedicating a digital daffodil – a virtual badge that can be printed and shared online. The society’s Relay for Life will also take place virtually this year, on June 13.

CCS supporters are also encouraging donations to the society’s COVID-19 Emergency Fund.

Come From Away Toronto's Greg Hawco and George Masswohl hosted online musical performances May 4 and 5, featuring cast and band members from various Come From Away productions. Funds raised went to the society’s COVID-19 Emergency Fund.

Pelley said the fund supports the organization’s online platforms for cancer patients, including its peer-matched program that connects individuals who have similar cancer journeys.

Newly diagnosed cancer patients can also get answers to their questions online, he said.

Pelley also noted that calls to the society’s online support programs have increased by 35 per cent.

“Every day in this province, 11 people are diagnosed with cancer. That doesn’t stop for a pandemic … We have to make certain that we have the increased capacity to meet the demands that are being placed on those programs right now,” he said.

Pelley thanked those who continue to support the CCS including those who donate to the COVID-19 Emergency Fund.

“Even though we can’t do in-person supportive care programs, we remain committed to supporting cancer patients as they go through their journey.”

For more information, visit www.cancer.ca.

Need surging

As the pandemic continues to unfold, Betty Begg is doing whatever it takes to ensure her Charlottetown, P.E.I.-based charity keeps meeting the needs of low-income people and others who find themselves in need of help.

P.E.I.’s Gifts from the Heart founder and chief executive officer Betty Begg masks up when heading to pick up supplies for low income families and others who may need help.
P.E.I.’s Gifts from the Heart founder and chief executive officer Betty Begg masks up when heading to pick up supplies for low income families and others who may need help.

Begg is founder and chief executive officer of Gifts from the Heart. She started the charity out of her home about six years ago, but has since moved into a building on Spring Lane.

Before COVID-19, the charity served about 700 clients.

“We are up about 125 per cent with regular clients and now seniors, students and young people just in the workforce trying to pay their bills and no money for food. Those leaving the jails that have nothing and (we’ve had) many outreaches for mental health,” Begg said of the people now relying on the charity for help.

The store offers everything from food to furniture; personal hygiene items to toys and clothing.

Everything is free and is given from the heart, Begg said.

Gifts from the Heart shops for thousands of dollars of food a week.

“Any (monetary) donations we get, we buy healthy food, such as fruit and eggs and milk.”

While the charity has over 70 volunteers, because of the pandemic, there are only five people, including Begg, filling the orders.

“We cannot open the store, but they tell us what they need, and our volunteers will go out in the store and pick up the items,” she said.

Clients can get their items outside the store. Delivery to doorsteps is also offered.

“We do all this through love and kindness …This is my life now. Trying to build people up and leave them with their dignity.”

For more information on Gifts from the Heart, visit Betty Begg on Facebook or call 1-902-628-6871.

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