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Coronavirus: Lethbridge non-profits adapt to fewer donations, volunteers while fundraisers up in the air

Southern Alberta non-profits dealing with impacts of COVID-19
WATCH ABOVE: Non-profit organizations in southern Alberta have been continuously adapting to the impacts of COVID-19, including less donations and the cancellation of major fundraising events. Danica Ferris has more.

Lethbridge non-profit organizations and charities have been forced to adapt during the COVID-19 pandemic, with a decrease in donations, a decline in volunteers and cancelled fundraisers, according to officials.

For the Lethbridge and District Humane Society, manager Barb Grodzicky said she is taking it one day at a time.

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“We’re not in dire straits. We’re doing OK,” she said. “Donations are down, of course, whether it’s people bringing food or cleaning supplies.

“Cleaning supplies are our biggest challenge because there [are] limits on everything… Gone are the days when we could go in and buy eight packs of paper towels and a dozen bottles of bleach.”

Grodzicky said the humane society is also down in volunteers.

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“The groups that used to come from the [Ability Resource Centre] — of course, they closed down really fast, so those volunteers weren’t coming anymore. We have volunteers that stepped up and are coming, so there [are] a few of us that are doing a lot,” she said.

With so many families at home isolating during the COVID-19 pandemic, Grodzicky said the humane society has been carefully screening potential adopters over the phone, trying to avoid what could be a major problem when people start returning to work.

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“Our biggest concern is that in however many months, when things start going back to normal, we’re worried about the calls that may come in because they don’t have time for the cat or dog that they’ve adopted and they’re looking to surrender,” Grodzicky said.

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Grodzicky said so far, the humane society has been lucky that its major fundraising events are scheduled for the fall. The three biggest money-makers happen each year in September, October and December — but other organizations have not been so lucky.

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The co-ordinator of southern Alberta’s Walk to End ALS said the ALS Society of Alberta has been forced to move its outdoor event online and suspects it will have a major impact on funds raised.

“The walk is a huge, huge part of our fundraising for our area and for the ALS Society and for research,” said Shelley Thom, who has organized the walk in Lethbridge for four years.

“We were doing around [$38,000 to $45,000] every year, and so it’s going to be a tougher haul doing a virtual walk.”

Thom said the biggest struggle for the ALS Society is supporting those suffering from the disease and their families.

In southern Alberta, 18 people are battling the illness, according to the society.

“It’s such an isolated, rare disease and the journey is very difficult,” said Thom. “With that journey, having that extra isolation is pretty terrifying, I would think.”

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Thom’s husband Gerard died from ALS in 2017. She said the disease is especially daunting financially.

“[On average,] it costs families between [$250,000 to $300,000] to get through the disease,” she said.
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“I can’t imagine, on top of it now, if they have got a working person in their family now that can’t work all of a sudden… That’s got to be terrifying for them because it’s already such an overwhelming disease financially.”

The ALS Society of Alberta will still hold the Walk to End ALS — virtually — across the province on June 21.