Kerby community reaches out to Calgarians

Mark Paul at Kerby Centre community outreach

Photo by Winifred Ribeiro

Mark Paul working to load prepared meals for delivery to seniors in need.

Over the days that made up the slow descent into self-isolation, social distancing and “essential work only” Kerby Centre may have closed its doors, but its essential work continues.

Under health recommendations from the province, the centre was closed to the public with just a skeleton crew of workers inside. However, across the city of Calgary, working remotely from wherever they could, the Kerby community answered the call to help those who need it most during this pandemic.

There was still so much that needed to be done, even with the doors closed. Thrive, Kerby’s grocery delivery program, expanded in leaps and bounds following the provincial recommendation of social distancing.

There were so many older folks — possibly scared and isolated — without easy access to the necessities of life. And only so many employees and volunteers still ready and willing to help make that necessary delivers.

The volunteer response
Kerby Centre’s volunteer coordinator, Lauren Riley, sent out the call online: and the response was truly incredible.

At first out, we put out a posting on our volunteer connector and I had to take it down because we had so many people respond,” Riley said. “It’s been amazing. 160 people reached out to us so far.”

These folks included everyone from pre-med students getting volunteer hours to older folks themselves who found themselves with a breadth of free time and wanting to assist.

“Most of them are brand new, it’s their first time volunteering with the Kerby Centre,” Riley said. “Most of the people that reach out volunteer with other organizations, but are now looking for something to do.”

“Folks who have lost their jobs or work has slowed down so looking for something to do.”

With the number of volunteer applications rolling in, Kerby also reached out to other organizations to connect them with potential volunteers.

Around two dozen people were referred to the Calgary Chinese Community Service Association and the Greater Forest Lawn Society.

Thrive’s grocery delivery continued to expand, breaking Kerby records by leaps and bounds. From there, Kerby Centre kept figuring out new and innovative ways to keep assisting isolated folks in Calgary.

Kerby’s dining room staff also had all the necessary ingredients on hand to help out: tons of food items and a breadth of time on their hands.

Chef Mike started to make homemade meals to be delivered to clients of Kerby’s Adult Day Program. This expanded to getting fresh dinners sent to clients of the Thrive grocery program as well. At the time of publication, over 1,000 meals had been delivered.

But food can only nourish the body and isolated people in Calgary needed something to help nourish their minds and souls. Kerby Centre ended up arranging social phone calls to older adults in Calgary, checking in on folks and giving them the much-needed chance to chat.

Volunteers ring up folks once or twice a week, and hearing another happy voice on the end of the line has helped the mental and social well-being of Calgarians in these turbulent times.

Keeping older adults informed and connected
And that’s what we’re trying to do, here, at the Kerby News. This article you’re reading and the rest of this issue is not only filled with important articles that will inform of the situation, but also provide a much-needed relief of stories of human interest: a breath of fresh air when it seems like the news continues to seemingly be a slew of frightening and confusing messages.

“We’re so thankful to our advertisers, without whom the Kerby News would not exist,” said Larry Mathieson, CEO of Kerby Centre. “This publication is exactly what folks across Calgary and the whole of Alberta need right now and we know it’s essential to peoples’ continued well-being.”

In addition to our print version, Kerby News is happy to announce we’re launching a dedicated website for the Kerby News to continue adapting and innovating to match the needs of its audience.

A study by Statistics Canada discovered that online use by adults 65 years and older increased steadily from 32.2 per cent to 68.2 per cent from 2007 to 2016.

In order to match that need, the dedicated website for the Kerby News will contain all of the important information needed for older adults, in addition to the interesting stories, tales and perspectives our audience has grown to appreciate.

This won’t affect our print run: the physical copies of Kerby News will still be on stands and mailed out per usual, with over 30,000 copies reaching folks across Calgary and southern Alberta: something that’s especially important in these days of isolation and crisis.

“Calgarians have been faced with crises before and have always stepped up to respond with their time and skills. Every day, I’m blown away by the commitment, the enthusiasm and the dedication of people in this city.”

Volunteer feedback
Don’t take our word for it, however. Here is some of the anonymous feedback received from our very own volunteers over the past weeks:

“Volunteering for the Kerby Centre during this time is a great and simple way for me to feel like I’m giving back a little more! Thank you again for the opportunity.”

“I was very impressed with the process regarding this outreach program. From communication with yourself to picking up the meals to the delivery and the very detailed information provided. Given the difficulty of remaining physically distance and ensuring that everything is sanitized, what I experienced was top notch.”

“I am thrilled to be a part of your team of volunteers. It is a wonderful and safe way for someone of my vintage to help out. This small contribution is good for my sanity. It’s hard to watch everyone else make an effort and just sit at home. I have always loved to work with seniors so this is a very perfect fit for me.”