Social media is a beautiful thing! We couldn't help but notice all the great things that Drive Happiness and other seniors organizations were up to during the pandemic. Many of us heard early on that seniors were among the most high-risk for poor outcomes, as such, allowing them to shelter in place and receive the resources and connections they needed was of particular importance. We reached out to our friends at Drive Happiness to learn more about how they stepped up for seniors and as it turns out they were doing even more good than we even knew about. Check out what they've been up to in an update from Jennifer Conneely, their program coordinator. Images supplied by Drive Happiness.
"During the outbreak, Drive Happiness kicked into overdrive! We made some changes to better help seniors stay home and healthy. We expanded our services to help others in need by building stronger relationships with existing partners and creating new partnerships.
At the beginning of the outbreak, we contacted each of our riders to ensure that they had either family or community supports and for those that were struggling, we set up a friendly calls program where a volunteer would reach out weekly to touch base, provide information or just have a friendly chat. To keep our riders healthy and at home, we allowed our volunteers to start shopping for seniors. We purchased and delivered food hampers for many of our riders who were struggling. We have also started distributing re-useable cloth masks with our ‘happy’ logo to our drivers and riders!
Through our established partnerships, we stepped up the support we already provided. We work with all the local Edmonton senior centres and our PEGASIS partners like GEF and SAGE. We delivered food hampers, activity kits, PPE kits and even tax forms! Our drivers became experts at logistics and route planning as we delivered donations from local businesses throughout the capital region. M&M Meats, Bon Ton Bakery, Love Pizza, Salisbury Greenhouses, Revera at McConachie Gardens and Frickin’ Delights Donuts generously donated food, pizza, flowers and treats to give to local seniors via Drive Happiness.
We forged new relationships with a number of other organizations as well. We delivered food hampers to seniors and families for the Multicultural Health Brokers. We worked with the North East Hub, which includes the Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers to deliver food and supplies. We worked with the food banks in Edmonton, St. Albert, Strathcona and Leduc. We built stronger relationships with AHS, Capital Care, the City of Beaumont and all the FCSS offices in 20 outlying communities. When bus services were limited, we even drove essential workers to and from their shifts for Capital Care and the City of Beaumont. We began working with Meals on Wheels to distribute essential toiletry kits and move supplies. We shared our experience and knowledge on assisted transportation with many organizations and extended our services to support others.
Throughout it all, we strived to help as many people as we possibly could. We provided a number of rides for those not registered in our program and signed up many new riders. We sent hundreds of referrals to agencies for people needing housing, social work, food and support. We were luck to find 60 new volunteers to help us provide these new services and supports. Without their help, we couldn’t have expanded with the speed that was needed. We were honoured to receive the Northern Lights Volunteer Recognition Award during Seniors Week."