A year of incredible challenges

Photo by Branimir Balogović - Accessed on Unsplash

On the day of Jan. 6, 2020, I arrived at Kerby Centre for my first day of work.

I had all sorts of ideas about what my priorities would be as the new CEO for my first 90 days on the job.

In less than two months everything I thought would be important had become irrelevant.

The day the pandemic was declared, our team was meeting to plan how we would meet the needs of Calgary’s seniors. When we closed our doors a few days later, we had already begun the work that would change our organization forever.

For nearly 50 years, Kerby Centre has been a place where seniors made friends, built community, learned, exercised, and sought resources. An organization built around programs in one building shifted to outreach and online programs.

In the 111 days we were fully closed, we delivered 7,000 meals to isolated seniors, filed more than 1,000 tax forms by phone, and made more than 700 grocery deliveries to homebound seniors.

In addition, our staff made an astounding 17,000 phone calls to members, volunteers, and clients to reduce social isolation.

The time the Centre was closed pushed us to find new ways to connect with Calgary’s seniors. Through phone outreach, food delivery and programming on Zoom, we have connected with thousands of isolated seniors.

To ensure that seniors who are still self-isolating are supported, these programs will continue.

There was been incredible support from the community throughout 2020. From government funding to individuals donating $20 on our website, every dollar helped us support seniors during this crisis. In addition to financial support, hundreds of Calgarians connected with us to volunteer, shared our stories and even held their own fundraisers.

2020 was also a year of unconventional partnerships. Along with wonderful organizations like Kids Up Front and Calgary Reads, we have created new intergenerational programs, reducing social isolation not only for older adults but for children as well.

With funding from the Calgary Foundation, we launched a brand-new website for Kerby News (kerbynews.ca) and completely revamped kerbycentre.com.

This fresh new look and improved design helped us stay up-to-date with rapidly-changing program and service information. As well as expanding the content we can share online, the Kerby News site also adds value to our advertisers.

In a way, you could say that every way that we communicate with seniors or build community has changed, been enhanced or improved in some fashion. This year for Kerby Centre has been a year of incredible challenges but even more, it has been a year of incredible innovation.

If you’d like to know further details about how the incredible milestones we’ve achieved this year, please check out our annual report which is now available online at kerbycentre.com/annual-reports.

I could not be prouder of the way our staff and our volunteers found new and creative ways to connect with seniors during a year where they needed us to most.

I think 2020 was the year when we found out Kerby Centre wasn’t really a place after all. I suppose Kerby Centre was always really about the people and the relationships much more than it is a building.