Central Manitoulin programs support seniors

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CENTRAL MANITOULIN – It’s amazing just how far you can stretch a dollar when you have strong community support. Marcus Mohr, Central Manitoulin community development/outreach co-ordinator, is the lead on a number of initiatives aimed at providing support for seniors isolated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have been providing a hot meal program, giving gift cards out and providing essential hygiene products,” said Mr. Mohr, describing the program initiatives.

The project funding comes from a $3,000 grant from the federal government, part of the New Horizons seniors’ programming aimed at COVID-19 mitigation which flowed through United Way.

The meal programs and other supports have been integrated into the municipality’s seniors’ check-in program where volunteers are ensuring that seniors are not completely isolated.

Mr. Mohr noted that although most seniors have family, many of their family members live in communities far from the shores of Manitoulin Island. “We have quite a population of seniors in our community,” he said, pointing out that the restrictions in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic have hit that sector of the population particularly hard. “It is very difficult for a lot of seniors.”

Currently, the program has been serving 100 people with a hot meal over the past three weeks and 25 $50 gift certificates have been given out. 

“We have been co-ordinating our efforts with the (Manitoulin Family Resources) food bank,” said Mr. Mohr. Those efforts have included the provision of essential hygiene products, including toilet paper and various “age related” products.

Getting $3,000 to stretch over a considerable number of seniors for several weeks has been greatly assisted by local businesses who have stepped up to help.

“They might have a roast turkey dinner one night and a roast beef the next,” he said. “They can plan out the meals and be very cost effective.”

The municipality also maintains a community helpline where a hearty band of community volunteers are assisting seniors by doing errands and delivering the meals to “self-isolators.” The number for the helpline is 1-249-878-1659. The toll-free number is 1-844-935-0443. 

United Way Centraide Canada received $9 million from the Government of Canada’s New Horizons for Seniors Program to help support Canadian seniors who are at great risk of poor health outcomes due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic such as vulnerable seniors living in social isolation or poverty. The funding support was in recognition that such seniors are at greater risk than the general population.

While the municipality has managed to stretch the funding to great purpose, it is aimed as a short-term support. Mr. Mohr said that he was hopeful that further program funding will be forthcoming. Although there is no official fundraising campaign in place to help continue the seniors support programs, Mr. Mohr said that donations could be sent to the municipality earmarked for that purpose.

“I’m sure we can figure out how to put any donations to work,” he said.