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West Island charity work is on the rise during the COVID-19 pandemic

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WATCH: West Island charity work is on the rise during the COVID-19 pandemic – May 2, 2020

Sandra Watson is working the phones like never before.

It’s one of the few ways the charity worker is able to reach out to vulnerable people during the COVID-19 crisis.

“Before, I used to connect with my clients on a one-on-one basis in their homes or they would come to my work. Now, it’s all by phone,” the program manager of the West Island Resource Centre told Global News.

She connects with dozens of people a day, most of them senior citizens.

“I give them ideas of activities they can do in their house; I help them connect with their families; We get their groceries delivered for them,” she said.

READ MORE: Quebec unveils COVID-19 screening strategy as province moves to reopen

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A lot of those groceries come from On Rock Community Services.

The largest food bank in the West Island is seeing a skyrocketing demand ever since the global pandemic hit Quebecers hard.

‘We get people coming in who are in tears ’cause they never thought they’d be here,” Kim Reid, president of On Rock Community Services told Global News.

“It’s hard to watch that.”

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, On Rock served 220 families a week. But last week, the food bank provided 260 families with grocery items — an 18-per cent increase.

It’s a hike caused by the economic shutdown and it’s forcing many people out of work — and they need help.

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“Most people don’t live with a healthy bank account. They live paycheque to paychequye and you take a percentage of that away and all of a sudden they’re floundering,” he said.

READ MORE: ‘Far too many unknowns’: Quebec English School Boards Association pushes back on reopening of schools

The YMCA recently pitched in, hosting a massive food drive for three West Island charities. Local residents donated the groceries and volunteers from the Y helped sort and deliver the items.

In one instance, a family arrived to pick up the food directly.

“They had a minivan; we loaded up their truck,” Kathy Dancsecs, the YMCA West Island Director, told Global News.

One of the biggest challenges, however, is connecting with those in need while the facility remains shuttered.

“There’s people that are completely isolated that might not be in contact with [the YMCA] at all,” she said.
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While all YMCAs remain closed, the West Island centre has turned to social media to engage with the public. Exercises and workshops are done from the homes of employees.

It’s a new way to connect with members during a time when in-person contact remains forbidden.