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Coronavirus: West Island non-profits struggle amid pandemic

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WATCH: Many businesses have suffered during the pandemic, and charities are no exception. Non-profit organizations rely on volunteers to keep running, but in many cases COVID-19 has cut the supply. Global’s Felicia Parrillo looks at the way some West Island charities have adapted to the pandemic. – Jul 24, 2020

NOVA Maison in Hudson has been open for a few weeks now, but things are far from normal.

The furniture store is only open three days a week, while their clothing store, NOVA Boutique, is open by appointment only.

Both shops are run solely by volunteers — most of them over the age of 70.

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

Janet Ellerbeck, who’s in charge of both stores, says she’s lost about half of her volunteers as a result of the pandemic.

“I don’t have the normal girls who used to work their shifts,” she said. “Some of them have husbands who aren’t well, so they’re scared they’re going to get their husbands sick.”

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NOVA Hudson is a charitable, non-profit organization that receives no federal or provincial funding.

READ MORE: Organizations team up to offer free grocery service to West Island residents amid COVID-19 pandemic

It relies on donations to run its stores, and all of the proceeds go to provide nursing care to patients in the community.

Ellerbeck says the pandemic has done a number on the stores. If they’re lucky, she estimates each store will make around 20 per cent of what they normally would in a year.

“We have rent to pay,” she said. “It’s $2,500 a month at the clothing store and we haven’t sold any clothes in four months.”

The West Island Mission has experienced similar issues.

READ MORE: Solidarity fund launched to aid West Island charities hurt by COVID-19

Over the last few months, the organization has lost a handful of older and experienced volunteers.

“Typically during the week, we would have about 25 volunteers come through the door,” said Suzanne Scarrow, the mission’s executive director. “At the very beginning of the pandemic, we went from a typical 25 to about five.”

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In order for volunteers to be able to work safely and at a distance, the mission has changed how it operates, including installing a mezzanine.

READ MORE: On Rock Community Services prepares to open ‘trendy’ new thrift shop

Scarrow says with that, hopefully all of the volunteers they lost, will soon return.

“It was a long four months of them not being able to come in and do their work, so now they’re coming back in. They’re happy, they’re excited and they’re excited to see each other,” she said.

“The energy in the warehouse is really lovely.”

Both organizations hope that that energy combined with the help of the community, will get them through this rough patch.