Mountainside Community Church will be mobilizing volunteers as part of the Elk Valley COVID Support Team. Paige Mueller/The Free Press

Elk Valley COVID Support Team helps residents cope

The group was started by Mountainside Community Church which has campuses in Fernie and Sparwood

In times of crisis, communities like ours band together and do their very best to make sure no one is left behind. A group of volunteers mobilized by Mountainside Community Church are doing just that and have launched an initiative to keep all members of our community safe.

Kevin Dunn is the chair of the board of directors for Mountainside Community Church and he said that as a church community, there were many “volunteers that were just chomping at the bit and looking to get involved.”

After some careful consideration, Dunn and a team of dedicated volunteers decided to create the Elk Valley COVID Support Team (EVCST). Within just a few days, the group had a mandate, a slew of eager volunteers and a website to sign people up. They even have an ER doctor on the team, advising them how best to safely volunteer. The EVCST has a few main focus areas for COVID response: grocery and medication delivery, phone calls to vulnerable people, collecting money donations and anxiety or grief counselling. On their website, the group states that their three main services are “physical care, emotional care, and spiritual care.”

“The reality is we all want this to have the least impact possible on our community and every time somebody walks out their front door who maybe isn’t feeling great, they endanger people in the grocery store or wherever they are headed to,” Dunn said. “Anything we can do to help one person here is really helping 10 people or 100 people and we want to be the place that avoids this virus as much as possible. For us to be able to get out now and be ahead of the curve and get people feeling comfortable is going to be huge.”

EVCST’s volunteers will pick up and drop off groceries for elderly or vulnerable people who are stuck at home and unable or afraid to visit the grocery store. They’ll also mobilize volunteers to provide over the phone check ins for Elk Valley residents.

“We’ve also got a group of people that are going to be doing touch in phone calls with older people who aren’t maybe going to be connected with what’s going on all the time because they aren’t on social media,” said Dunn. “We’ll be having people that are volunteering making phone calls to check on people every couple of days and make sure they are feeling good and being a social outlet for them.”

The group also has access to the pastoral team at Mountainside Community Church, and according to Dunn, this is another very useful resource for people who may be feeling overwhelmed.

“We’ve also got our pastoral team so if there are any people who are struggling with anxiety or who need grief counselling or anything like that, they just need somebody to talk to, we have people who are trained already and ready to go and hit the ground and help people out that way.”

Since the church has two main campuses in Fernie and Sparwood, they’ll be able to reach people all throughout the Elk Valley. The EVCST plans on offering services for citizens from Jaffray all the way through to Elkford.

On top of offering services, the group will also be collecting money donations.

“We’re going to set up a link where people can go and donate as well or they can do e-Transfers through email,” Dunn explained. “Any donations that are made will be going specifically to this, they aren’t going to the church, they are for this effort. They will get a tax receipt from us though because we are a charitable organization and this is exactly the sort of thing our church is supposed to be doing, helping the community.”

The money raised through this initiative will initially go towards covering gas costs for the volunteers. After that, if the money keeps coming in, Dunn said it will go towards helping people cover the cost of their groceries.

“We’ll be figuring out what to do with that since obviously there’s a bit of a process that goes with that because it’s easy for people to take advantage of, but we’re going to be doing our best to figure out how to offset some costs for people who were recently laid off.”

As the EVCST moves forward, they are looking for two types of people, those who are healthy and able to volunteer, and those who are in need of a little bit of community support. Both groups can contact the EVCST on their website Evcst.com, via email at hello@evcst.com or by phone at 250-423-4112.

“The whole situation is going to be dynamic,” said Dunn. “If people are looking to get involved or if they offer to come in and help, if we don’t get back to them right away or if they feel like we’re struggling to get things pulled together, we are doing the absolute best we can. We’ve got the best people available.”

In an effort to ensure that all recommended health and safety codes are followed, the EVCST even has an ER physician as part of the team who can advise on things that the group should and shouldn’t do.

“Sometimes we will be saying, I don’t think this is a good idea and we don’t need to do this. It may seem a little disorganized but we are running as hard as we can and doing the best we can with what we’ve got so if people can be patient with us and understand that we’re doing something that is sort of out of our expertise range but we’re doing the best we can, that would be awesome.”



editor@thefreepress.ca

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