Are you self-isolating or quarantining in your home due to COVID-19 but need groceries, prescription medication and other supplies, or just someone to talk to? There are many people in Williams Lake who are ready to help you, whether you are a single person, a family or a senior.
Harnessing the power of several agencies and volunteers in town, the Delivery Assistance Supplies and Help — or DASH — program has been created as a volunteer service to assist Williams Lake and area residents during the COVID-19 pandemic.
DASH dispatchers available Monday to Friday at
“In our own church family we started to discover as this situation unfolded that there were people self quarantining after returning from travel and there were others in our own church who were vulnerable because of age or pre-existing conditions so we began to ask the question, how can we help them?” said Pastor Jeremy Vogt of the Cariboo Bethel Church.
“On the other side, there were a bunch of people in our church who just wanted to serve and help,”
Church members began running errands for others in need, a group which they called ‘Shopping Angels,’ until Vogt brought retired community safety manager Dave Dickson on board to bring all the Williams Lake agencies together to help the entire community.
“Dave is good at connecting the dots,” Vogt said, noting the move brought together the Cariboo Bethel Church, the Williams Lake Alliance Church, the Salvation Army, the Williams Lake Seniors Activity Centre and Better at Home program and the City of Williams Lake.
Williams Lake Alliance Church members, led by Pastor Chris Harder, meanwhile, have been operating the DASH program, which then brought in the Shopping Angels.
“Our story is very similar,” said Pastor Harder. “We’ve got people self-isolating and others who are free to help and want to help. It’s just a natural translation of our faith wanting to be the hands and feet of Jesus, to show love to people around us and meet needs in practical ways where we can.”
Harder said Alliance church member, Joao Gaspar, who is connected to the local medical community, came up with the idea of being runners for others. Another church member, Reg Stuart, who is connected in the ranching world and has the experience of working with ranchers during the 2017 wildfires, also offered to help.
“It just seemed like an obvious thing to put the two of them together and let their two brilliant minds work together and put them to work,” Harder said, noting they then connected with the Cariboo Bethel volunteers.
Vogt said Dickson built a team of dispatchers and ways to shop, and said he is grateful to local grocery stores for their efforts.
“Things are starting to come together and there is this united response to help people who are isolated and vulnerable right now,” said Vogt.
When asked what the church leaders are seeing in the community, as far as how residents are coping with the COVID-19 pandemic and isolation surrounding it, Vogt said it’s been tough on some.
“That’s been one of my greatest concerns actually, is not COVID-19, but the lack of social contact. Humans are meant to be together so there are people who are lonely, anxious, or listening to fake news or over-sensational news, and so people are retreating.”
Vogt and Harder said they have been reaching out to vulnerable people, families and singles, who are members of their churches to connect with them during this difficult time either over the phone or by using Zoom, which connects people through video conferencing for that face-to-face contact.
“And that really, really helps,” Vogt said, noting even if you are not a member of their church, they encourage anyone who just needs someone to talk to give them a call.
“We’re happy to talk to anyone.”
There is one centralized phone number for the local DASH program, which is manned with a dispatcher, 250-267-4861. Hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday to Friday.
Other agencies working within the DASH group are Tamara Robinson and Dawn Butt of the Williams Lake Salvation Army, Erick Peterson emergency program co-ordinator and Williams Lake fire chief, Joao Gaspar, business manager for Williams Lake Physiotherapy, and Glenda Winger, manager of the Williams Lake Seniors Activity Centre (WLSAC).
WSAC and the Better at Home program, which assists seniors to stay in the their homes longer on their own, recently received funds from the United Way.
Seniors should call 2-1-1 for support
Seniors looking for support through the COVID-19 crisis, are asked to call 2-1-1. This line is a provincial number where all seniors 65 and over are asked to register. Once registered, local seniors will be referred to local contacts such as Winger and Better at Home coordinator Kimberly Futcher.
“We are going to work with these wonderful (local) groups to make sure all the seniors that contact us get as prompt service as possible … it’s best to stay home but we know that you need your groceries, we know that you need your prescriptions picked up,” Winger said to seniors.
“Again please seniors, please stay home. Rely on your neighbours, your families and 2-1-1 to get the support you need through this and please stay safe.”
Winger said she does know many seniors are finding it difficult to be isolated, however, it’s important everyone stays home as much as possible.
“They’re lonely … I’m willing to talk to them, to support them in any way,” Winger said.
The 2-1-1 provincial number is for seniors and also for volunteers wanting to help seniors. Someone is at that number to help seven days a week. Once registered, Williams Lake residents will be referred to Winger.
Williams Lake Salvation Army offering phone registration and delivery for food hampers
The Salvation Army in Williams Lake has adapted services to meet the community’s needs during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Tamara Robinson said their hot lunch program is now being served from their emergency services truck outside of their building from 12 to 12:45 p.m. Monday to Friday. Pre-packaged fresh bread and produce bags are also given out to those in need at that time.
Anyone needing food bank services, such as a food hamper, can now register for that program over the phone by calling 250-392-2423 extension #214.
Hampers are delivered with a “knock and drop” approach between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m., and those who register need to be home at that time.
The thrift store is closed due to the COVID-19 outbreak, which helps to fund all the Salvation Army programs, however government grants are assisting the Salvation Army at this time. They are also grateful for any cash donations.
“It’s a different time,” said Butt. “We saw our numbers increase at first, then they steadied off last week and now they’re up again this week. But people are also missing the socialization. Every day at lunch I go out and I remind people that we have to social distance because if we don’t social distance that could be a problem and we don’t want that.”
The Salvation Army is also partnering with the Cariboo Sew Strong group to supply vulnerable populations with homemade face masks. Robinson said they are giving out the masks, and organizing an exchange program where the masks are returned to be disinfected and cleaned, and a new mask is given.
Grassroots movement, Cariboo Sew Strong, seeing women making masks to help stop COVID-19
Rilla Warwick of the Cariboo quilting club, Cariboo Piecemakers, is one of the organizers of the mask makers.
“It seems like we have been doing it forever,” Warwick said Friday, noting the group has been making masks for about 10 days.
“A couple of our members who are nurses foresaw the shortage and asked if we were willing to (make masks) and of course we were.”
The movement started out with the Cariboo Piece Makers but has grown into the group, Cariboo Sew Strong.
“We have all kinds of people at home sewing,” Warwick said, noting all the fabric and time sewing is donated. “This is our community and we want to support it and make everyone as safe as possible.”
Warwick said the group has been working closely with the hospital staff to understand what they need and want. So far, 700 items have been taken to the hospital, including face masks, which will be available for the general public who are entering the hospital.
“Our priority is keeping people in the hospital safe.”
Volunteers will be giving them out to visitors this coming week.
“There is no way we are suggesting that this is a replacement for social distancing and a lot of hand washing,” Warwick said
“We know people are going to be out and we want them to be as safe as possible. That’s why we are making them.”
“It’s going to take us a little while to ramp up production but we’re doing to best we can.”
Donna at Fabricland has donated thousands of dollars in fabric, Warwick noted.
For more information, Warwick can reached at 250-392-3473. More information can also be found at the Cariboo Sew Strong Facebook page.
Williams Lake Emergency Operations Centre
Williams Lake Fire Chief Erick Peterson said the City is supporting all the community groups involved with helping residents, noting last week firefighters picked up groceries for the Williams Lake Salvation Army.
“We’re trying to support anyone in any way we can,” said Peterson, noting Williams Lake is doing very well in adhering to social distancing restrictions, both as businesses and as individuals.
“We’re doing far better than most communities and that’s because of (organizations like these involved with DASH.)”