Big Brothers Big Sisters of Lacombe and District is adapting to the new normal of COVID-19.
Executive Director Crystal Zens said that after moving all of their matches online, the organization is now looking for many new ways to keep connected to the families they support including porch drops of food and educational supports.
“Our national body has done really well putting our intake online, so we now have screening and training mentors online. We will still have the capacity to keep intaking mentors,” she said.
Zens said online learning has been a big challenge for some of their families and they are working to counteract that by supplying refurbished computers and reintroducing Tutoring Tuesdays online.
“We are working on a device drive. We are looking for IT equipment, Chromebooks or laptops that can be refurbished and put back to factory settings so we can get those out to our littles in need,” she said
Zens added Tutoring Tuesdays allows them to help their families and also teachers who are carrying a large-load moving their studies online.
To address the food security of their clients, Zens said BBBS introduced their Hot Lunch Porch program — which is a partnership between local business and BBBS, bringing hot meals weekly.
“We get to deliver those and see our families even if it from the yard or between the screen door. We want them to know they are still supported and we love them,” she said.
Zens said COVID-19 has drastically changed their yearly budget, but they have seen recent support that has allowed them to continue operating.
“United Way has been our most sustainable funder through this and we got our grant, which was over $20,000 again for our core program. We also had some federal funds come through the Community Foundation and we successful in receiving $10,000 through that grant,” she said.
BBBS has been in crisis management in terms of funding and are often applying for the same grants as other charities — but they are containing to find ways to fundraise including 50/50 raffles.
“We have no choice, we have to help our families and they are counting on us. The community has always been behind us and we are excited to collaborate with a lot of community partners even if it is through donations of the laptops,” she said.
Zens said BBBS is aware of the challenge residents and businesses are facing financially and are trying to work with the community but said their families do rely on the supports they provide.
“We were blessed to have a community business adopt our Landlord of the Month for the whole entire year. That is paid to all the way until Jan. 2021. They would like to remain anonymous. They are phenomenal community-loving business,” she said.
Zens said Tim Horton’s also has offered to feed 20 of their families.
Tim Horton’s reached out to us saying that if we can cover their lawn with cardboard hearts with positive sayings to bring people positivity — we will feed some of your families this week. Both Blackfalds and Lacombe have hearts all over,” she said.
Zens said they currently aren’t hosting a mentor drive but those interested in being a virtual member can contact them.
She added, “We have a great Board of Directors managing this charity and I think we will be just fine with all of the community support helping us give to these families that need us so much.”