As one might expect during a global health crisis, the organizations that focus on society’s most vulnerable individuals are the first to come to the forefront to respond.
The Mustard Seed Church in Edmonton already has 35 years of serving members of the public who experience poverty and homelessness, a segment of the population that is at the highest risk of contracting infectious diseases such as COVID-19, especially since 40 per cent or more of its clients and guests have pre-existing health conditions. The Seed offers housing and other social supports to help people rebuild their lives with dignity and respect.
With the pandemic that is now upon us, there is an ever greater recognition of the interconnectedness of public health. Everyone must be cared for in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
The Seed is soldiering on to support these people and the community at large. In addition to activating additional capacity to meet Alberta Health Services’ physical distancing guidelines, it has also implemented other strict and judicious protocols such as limiting visitors and offering non-essential services via phone and Skype where possible.
That means its costs have also gone way up. To fortify its efforts on all fronts, it has opened up a Pandemic Relief Fund.
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Dean Kurpjuweit, the executive director of the Edmonton branch of the church, said that right now the best way for the most people to help is with their bankbooks, though he recognizes fewer and fewer people will be able to offer the same level of their usual charitable contributions.
“We're starting to see what the new rhythm will look like. That's good. The need side is always obvious and the quickest answer is financial support. But we also are very, very sensitive to the times have just shifted financially for many, many people. We say that with as gentle of a request as we possibly can just to be sensitive to the fact that everyone's experiencing layoffs within their families right now,” he said.
“On the same hand, we're serving people that are laid off, and many of them are on AISH or Alberta Works and their income is very, very low.”
Apart from monetary donations, the Mustard Seed is gratefully accepting gifts in kind that include hygiene items and cleaning supplies. Clothes are not being taken at this time, though they have received a surplus of food from restaurants that have had to temporarily close. Its regular meal service, however, is still evolving to meet the daily changes of this pandemic. That’s another way people can help.
“If there's people that want to volunteer, we're looking at how to provide food service to those that are quarantined and unable to leave their house. We're still figuring out what that program model will look like but I think within the next week or so, we'll have it figured out,” he said, mentioning that a call would likely be put out within the next week.
Along with its call for help to the public, the Mustard Seed and other agencies that provide frontline services to vulnerable populations will soon have access to special provincial grants this week, according to information released by Alberta's ministry of community and social services on Tuesday morning.
The Mustard Seed Church urgently needs donations of cleaning supplies as well as the following items:
• Gown (FDA) Hazmat Suit Sealing Strip
• Non-contact thermometers
• Surgical Masks (FDA)
• Masks (FDA & NIOSH)
• Masks (Face Shield)
Please note that clothing donations are not being accepted at this time.
Donations can be made at 10635 96 St. in Edmonton during regular drop-off hours: Tuesdays/Thursdays from noon to 9 p.m.; Wednesdays/Fridays from 3 to 9 p.m.; and Saturdays from 2 to 7 p.m.
At this time the Christian Care Centre (10137 150 St.) is closed and not accepting donations.