Before Taylor Orpin starts her job at an overnight emergency warming centre in Winnipeg, she volunteers to provide bagged lunches and a warm, sanitized space for some of the city’s most vulnerable.
Orpin is one of the young people in the city attempting to fill the void of volunteers left by seniors needing to self-isolate during the COVID-19 pandemic, but charities are saying more help is needed.
A week ago, she decided to start volunteering at Oak Table, an initiative of 1JustCity which provides food to about 120 people every day at Augustine United Church in Osborne Village.
“A lot of their senior volunteers have to take a step back and self-isolate to take care of themselves. I just thought, I need to jump in there,” she said.
“As the world around us is shutting down left and right, the world is just on pause. But we have to keep moving for the most vulnerable members of our community.”
Orpin and her team ensure everyone who enters Augustine United Church sanitizes their hands, clean the space where food is picked up and served, pack bagged lunches for people with a place to go and serve the people who are without a home.
She’s urging more healthy people to “rise up” within the bounds of public health guidelines.
“Taking two hours out of your day — a few hours out of watching Netflix — can make a really huge difference in a lot of people’s lives right now,” she said.
Shortage of meal delivery drivers
Rhonda Gardner, the executive director for Meals on Wheels Winnipeg says a number of people who are working from home to practise social distancing are pitching in and delivering food to people who need it.
“Because some people are working from home now, they have the flexibility to go out at lunch times and deliver meals,” she said.
“They may not have had that flexibility while working. Now that they’re home they can step out for an hour and a half and deliver meals for us.”
In spite of these new volunteers, the organization is facing a serious shortage.
Every day, drivers deliver meals along 30-34 routes to between 400 to 600 clients, but this week Gardner says she has 27 open routes to fill.
“It means we’ve got volunteers right now that are doubling up on their routes; our office staff, including myself are out delivering routes. We’re doing whatever we can do because we have to provide meals to these clients. It’s so important,” she said.
“Especially when there’s medical emergencies going around, they need to keep their nutrition up, so it’s a vital, vital service.”
Young volunteers needed at Winnipeg Harvest
Kiersten Haight, the communications coordinator with Winnipeg Harvest said the organization is also looking for healthy volunteers to help ensure Winnipeggers have enough to eat.
“We’re seeing a large increase over social media of younger people asking how they can help and who are willing to volunteer,” she said.
“A lot of these people are out of university or our of jobs at the moment, so they’re trying to see how they can help.”
Orpin is asking Manitobans not to forget their less fortunate neighbours in the midst of the crisis.
“At this time while everyone is stuck at home in self-isolation taking care of themselves, taking care of their families, it’s so easy for these folks to be forgotten.”
“I think it’s important that we recognize in ourselves that this is a scary time but for a lot of us healthier young folks that are not extra vulnerable right now, we are the ones that need to rise up.”
If you’re not experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, haven’t travelled in the last 14 days and aren’t in contact with immuno-suppressed people, consider volunteering with a local organization or checking in on your neighbours who might need groceries or prescriptions picked up.
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