With more and more of the district -and the world- shut down due to the spread of COVID-19, one motivated local teen has taken steps to ensure help is available for the people who need it.
Ray Calder is the 16-year old high school student behind the Rainy River District COVIDelivery group on Facebook that's aiming to help deliver essential groceries and supplies to people who are unable to go out themselves due to self-isolation, quarantine or high risk levels.
“I had been looking at the local Facebook groups and I found there's quite a few different volunteers posting about how they would like to pick up groceries for at-risk people that just needed necessities in the community,” Calder explained.
“I felt that there was a lack of organization to it all. I saw there needs to be like a centralized email, just someone you could contact to organize a delivery, so it's more of an organization type thing.”
Calder started the group on Facebook last Wednesday and saw an immediate response, and since then he and the collective of volunteers he's working with have started to lay down some rules, guidelines and successful deliveries.
“I made a little infographic on the Facebook page that just writes it all out,” Calder said of the requirements to access help form the group.
“It begins with contacting us, they would send us a Facebook message, email or text and then we would be in contact with them as soon as we can. The second step would be them sending their details. We need their address, name and phone number, and then a list of what they need. And then our third step is just to stay home and one of our many volunteer team members will purchase what they need.”
Calder noted that those who are receiving groceries and supplies from the group are able to pay by cash or cheque if necessary, but he said they would prefer payments made by e-transfer if at all possible.
“It's contactless and you don't even have to go out your door to do it,” he noted.
In addition to getting some basic information from the individuals who are looking to receive deliveries, Calder also screens prospective volunteers in order to help limit the potential spread of any illness, including COVID-19.
“I ask them three questions,” Calder explained.
“Just general Public Health Canada questions, they're pretty standard. The first question we asked was if they have any ongoing illnesses, including cold, fever, flu, anything that would either put them at risk, to 'deliverees.' We ask if they've travelled outside of Canada or to a major city or airport in the past 14 days, and if they're in close contact with someone who meets those requirements. A few people have had to unfortunately leave, but we're trying to keep safety and health a number one priority.”
As far as getting a hold of the group to volunteer, Calder noted the best way to do so would be to send the Facebook group a message, but people can also email the group at email@example.com or to send a text to 274-2652.
Calder explained that as someone who suddenly found themself with no school or job to go to -he works at the Memorial Sports Centre, which has been temporarily closed- it was important to not let his time go to waste.
“I felt that I needed to do something for the community with all the free time I had,” he said.
“Some people have lost their jobs, temporarily been laid off and they might not have the time to dedicate to something like this, so I felt like it was almost my duty to try to do something positive for the community. I'm good with technology and stuff, so I decided to make a Facebook group. I've contacted a few friends and they're offering help too, just with organizing, stuff like that, and I'm really happy with the turnout so far.”
As of early Friday afternoon, Calder said the group had reached 13 volunteers, mostly in the immediate Fort Frances area, and had completed three deliveries. A look at the group's Facebook page shows that they've since partnered with Cloverleaf Grocery in order to better provide help to people in need in Emo. But even after being available for only a day, Calder noted the group had become popular on Facebook.
“I got a lot of engagement from my Facebook post I made [Wednesday],” he said.
“So quite a few people contacted me, people of all walks of life, people who have kids, and some are just recently unemployed. It's awesome how quick the community got together like that. I didn't expect such an engagement.”
No one knows how long isolation measures will be in place in Ontario, but the response to the group on Facebook shows that people are hoping to get some kind of assistance while they are contained to their homes, and many others are looking to help those in need.
“I've gotten a lot of response from people on local Fort Frances groups and stuff,” Calder said.
“I'm getting lots of reaction, comments. We have an overwhelming amount of volunteers but not too many requests for deliveries, so we need those now.”