In times of crisis and struggle, communities can come together or fall apart. With the help of various community initiatives and organizations within the Elk Valley, our community is constantly finding new ways to support one another.
One of the very first initiatives spearheaded as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic was the Elk Valley Covid Support Team (EVCST). The project was created by Mountainside Community Church, with headquarters in both Fernie and Sparwood.
The EVCST first launched at the end of March and after approximately a month of offering their services, the organization says they are blown away by the support from communities.
Ty Hanlon handles communication for the group and said in the month since they’ve started providing services for people in the valley, the reaction from residents has been amazing.
“The people who we’ve helped directly have been super appreciative and very grateful because for some of them, they didn’t have family or friends in the area who were able to help them out so there’s been a few people in particular who were in a tight spot who have been the most grateful,” Hanlon said. “It’s been very well received by the communities and people have been very supportive and very grateful that there is a program like what we started.”
The EVCST strives to offer physical care, emotional care and spiritual care for those affected by the pandemic. In total, they’ve served over 100 people across the valley, mostly helping out with grocery orders and medication pick ups.
“Primarily, most of them have been groceries deliveries for people who have emailed or called in or filled out a form on our website and they give us their grocery list and then we find volunteers who are able to go out that day and they do the shopping for them and then deliver to their house,” Hanlon explained.
With 106 volunteers in Fernie and 75 volunteers between Sparwood and Elkford, there is always somebody around who can help out. At this point in time, the approximately 180 volunteers far outnumber the over 100 people who’ve used the service.
“Fortunately, there is far more people willing to help than people needing help at this point,” said Hanlon. “It’s not just volunteers from the church, we have volunteers from all over the community. Even though it’s an organization under a church, it’s been cool to see how the community has been able to come together to serve one another and help each other out.”
Aside from the grocery and medication deliveries, the EVCST is also offering emotional support through phone calls and check ins for those who request it. Although Hanlon says they haven’t had as many requests of this nature, the ones who have signed up for the phone call service have really appreciated it.
Proving their community spirit in even more ways, the EVCST has partnered with various local organizations, businesses and projects over the past month. Their largest partnership was with The Loaf.
“We helped them deliver 48 of their food hampers which contained mostly frozen meals, soups and while they had the supplies, they were putting in a fresh loaf of bread and some fresh vegetables that they weren’t able to use,” Hanlon noted.
The group has also worked with Gabriela Escobar Ari, the woman behind the Elk Valley Quarantine Journals project. Escobar Ari takes striking portraits of people stuck at home because of the pandemic from their front yards. When she started the project, she knew she wanted to help out a good cause and decided to throw her support behind the EVCST. By raising awareness and directing people to donate to the EVCST if they can, Escobar Ari is helping to both raise money and spread the word.
“The biggest thing is still to get the word out that there is our service in place for people who need help,” said Hanlon. “We’ve leveraged social media and we got some sandwich boards that we put in front of the grocery stores in Fernie, Sparwood and Elkford but I feel like the people who we are trying to help the most, like seniors and people in care homes, might not be using as much social media and so the people who need the help the most, we’ve found it the toughest to get information to them.”
With a crew of dedicated volunteers and a committed leadership team who are working tirelessly to serve their communities, the EVCST is ready to help anyone who may reach out. For more information, to request help or to volunteer with the organization, visit Evcst.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 250-423-4112. The EVCST can also be found on Facebook.