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Coronavirus: Community rallies to help Saskatoon youth shelter feed kids and their families

Click to play video: 'Shelter’s food program saved by donations'
Shelter’s food program saved by donations
WATCH: While the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed some of humanity's worst instincts, it’s also showing our best – Apr 6, 2020

A Saskatoon youth shelter forced to close amid the COVID-19 pandemic was dropping off food for some of its young clients at their homes. But the executive director says the youth were calling, saying their parents didn’t have anything to eat.

“We started packing extra for their families,” Don Meikle, executive director of EGADZ, told Global News.

“We were getting very nervous about how we were going to feed all these people.”

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For almost 30 years, EGADZ has offered shelter to children and families who need it, with a drop-in centre, outreach services and other programming, including for those on social assistance.

Meikle said that, when the shelter closed on March 24, the staff wanted to keep helping their clients and began delivering food.

EGADZ committed to helping children in 15 apartments. Shortly after, Meikle said staff began receiving calls from the children, concerned that their parents were hungry.

Just when Meikle didn’t know how the EGADZ would keep helping its clients, it received a donation. Another one followed shortly after. And then another.

Soon the shelter had more food and supplies on hand than ever before, said Meikle.

READ MORE: EGADZ making haven for Saskatoon youth at risk of suicide

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The centre of EGADZ’s common room was full of donated supplies and several tables were stacked high with food when Global News visited. The phone kept ringing. One call was from the White Buffalo Youth Lodge, offering several boxes of food.

Groups like the Salvation Army, and other volunteers, donated so much that EGADZ was able to feed 2,000 people and provide almost 200 hygiene kits.

“We had a gentleman come in with a closed trailer full of food and we’ve had a number of people just dropping off whatever they can,” he said.

READ MORE: City of Saskatoon calling on province to act now to help city’s homeless during pandemic

Part of the problem, Meikle said, was that people were hoarding supplies.

The families of EGADZ clients can’t shop whenever they want and do so at certain times of the month based on when they receive income, he said.

EGADZ families unable to stock up on supplies have been helped, at least for now.

READ MORE: New affordable housing units in Saskatoon give families safe place to call home

Amanda Peilon, a volunteer at the youth shelter, and her family and friends have committed to providing 50 bagged lunches every day for five days. On Monday, she dropped off the first batch.

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“I just feel like that’s what our job is, to take care of each other in times like this,” she said.

“We’re just coming together as a community and for us it’s amazing and it feels good that we’re going to be able to keep going.”

READ MORE: EGADZ making haven for Saskatoon youth at risk of suicide

“I think what it tells me is Saskatoon and Saskatchewan [is] a giving community,” he said.

“We’ve always stood behind important things, and when something like this comes we don’t look at how much they make or what they do, we just want to help.”

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

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To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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