Dearest members, supporters and friends,
We sure hope that this package finds you managing through these difficult times and that the new 411 Seniors “Old Timer’s RAG” brightens your day – even just a little. Thanks to the 411 Seniors’ members who kicked-off the newsletter during our closure.
When we closed the centre on March 16th our focus was to ensure that we had people and systems set up remotely so we could respond to the urgent needs of our membership and to the seniors’ community at large. This was a major undertaking for us as we are not a group that has relied on technology and digital platforms to connect with one another. Working, isolated at home, was unnatural for us. In fact, our entire organizational structure and operations are set up for in place, face to face interactions.
But we met the challenge and I am proud of the work we accomplished together in this time of unprecedented crisis and uncertainty.
Volunteers continued to provide critical information and referral services connecting seniors with community resources and supports. A new “friendly call” program was set up by Mariko Takashina, our Program Coordinator. The program saw volunteers calling 411 members to ensure that all members had what they needed. It was important for us to let our members know that they could count on the 411 community. Monica Murguia, Membership and Volunteer Coordinator, set up and managed our digital support program including social media and the new 411 Facebook group page – 411 Informed and Connected as well as the newsletter. Our board of directors did an amazing job advocating with the federal government on an extended tax filing date (now October 1) for seniors on the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) to ensure continuation of benefits with our income tax clinic closed.
Some amazing partnerships supported us through this period. A very special thanks to Luke Schuss and Joel Flynn, from Podstreamers, who provided us with invaluable expertise, worked hard alongside us and answered our many, many calls for digital help.
As the Province of BC begins “a careful restart” on June 1st, the staff and I are working towards a partial re-opening of the 411 Seniors Centre for essential services. We are following the guidelines provided to us by Vancouver Coastal Health and WorkSafe BC.
We view ensuring seniors’ personal and financial security as an essential service. By far the greatest need that we are hearing from seniors is the need to file 2019 income tax and for expanded Information and Referral support services. We are currently working with the Canada Revenue Agency and our volunteers to restart an income tax program mid-June. We are looking at a combination of drop off/pick up, email and telephone options for seniors.
We will be limiting public access to the centre to those in crisis.
Importantly, we are not in a zero risk scenario with respect to COVID-19. We must continue to maintain social distancing, frequent hand hygiene and stay at close to home.