Small businesses and volunteers helping those in need amid COVID-19 pandemic

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At a May 25 press conference, Ontario Premier Doug Ford discussed additional measures to help cope with the ongoing COVID-19 crisis and announced that small businesses and volunteers are stepping up to help those in need amid the pandemic.

Today (May 25), the province announced that Ontario’s volunteers and small businesses are helping seniors and those who are vulnerable during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Thousands of people are providing their time and resources to make and deliver food and run errands as well as check in on those who are self-isolating. 

Today’s update was provided by Premier Doug Ford, Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, and Prabmeet Sarkaria, Associate Minister of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been moved by hundreds of stories of people reaching out in selfless acts of kindness to help those most in need,” said Premier Ford.

It’s that Ontario spirit that is giving us the strength to pull through these tough times. If you have some spare time, I encourage you to sign up and volunteer because we are all in this together.”

Last month on April 9, the Ontario government announced it was investing $100,000 in its partnership with SPARK Ontario, in order to support the province’s first bilingual volunteer hub that connects volunteers with community organizations in support of vulnerable Ontarians.

To date, over 54,000 users have visited the SPARK Ontario website to learn how they can volunteer, over 3,500 civic-minded Ontarians have signed up on the site to volunteer and more than 3,100 have contacted community organizations regarding a volunteer opportunity.

Additionally, 141 community organizations have registered for volunteer matching and over 100 COVID-19-related volunteer opportunities have been posted online.

Volunteers are supporting seniors and people with disabilities and others in need that are staying home during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Their support includes helping out with food delivery, shopping for supplies, running errands, providing remote mental health and crisis support, tutoring kids, mentoring seniors on technology and providing mental health by writing letters and poems.

The government of Ontario has partnered with the Older Adults Centres Association of Ontario to help implement the Seniors Centres Without Walls model of programming, where isolated seniors can participate in group programs over the phone.

As of April 30, 2020, 35 programs have started running in their communities.

Although it is critical for our most vulnerable citizens to self-isolate in order to stay healthy and safe, the lack of social interaction can be extremely difficult,” said Raymond Cho, Minister for Seniors and Accessibility.

Associate Minister Sarkaria said, “As I connect and host virtual roundtables with small businesses across the province, I’m also hearing about the tremendous generosity of our small businesses and the many ways they are giving back to their communities.” 

In so many remarkable ways, these local heroes are demonstrating the Ontario spirit. As part of the Small Businesses, Big Hearts initiative, we want to highlight these acts of kindness,” he added.

The province is working with the Ontario Community Support Association (OCSA) and their volunteers to increase Meals on Wheels food deliveries and deliver essential supplies to isolated, low-income seniors and people with disabilities and chronic medical conditions, through the new Ontario Community Support Program.

Over 500 meal referrals and nearly 2,000 essential supply referrals have been made since mid-April when the program launched.

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