As the COVID-19 crisis progresses, we continue to hear inspiring stories about community mobilization, emergency responses, and community foundations creating innovative solutions.

Across Canada, community foundations have confronted the pandemic with a willingness to provide help and support for those in need. This crisis has shown us the power of an engaged community, and the diverse emergency responses from community foundations have proved the importance of grassroots initiatives in local regions and municipalities.

The following is part of an ongoing series that spotlights the emergency response efforts of local community foundations across Canada. In addition to these features, we have also compiled a map sharing the mobilization efforts from community foundations across the country. 

With 25 years of experience as a community foundation, the Community Foundation of Northwestern Alberta is harnessing its understanding of local issues; engaged and connected partner relationships; and firsthand experience living through challenging times and wildfires to inform a response to COVID-19. 

After taking time to assess the community needs, CFNWAB decided their response would need to centre on food security. While participating in the annual Vital Signs program, the foundation’s data identified food insecurity as a key challenge in the community, particularly in times of economic turmoil. 

Partnerships also played a key role in establishing this focus. In the last two years, the community foundation has partnered with the local Rotary Club’s annual food drive, where last year the drive brought in 70 tonnes of food for families and individuals in need. Several years ago the community foundation also established a Community Food Bank Fund to go towards the Salvation Army’s efforts addressing this food insecurity in the community.

It was thus logical to apply this knowledge to a COVID-19 response. The community foundation has taken the funds from the community food bank fund and expanded the fund’s mandate to include the local Community Kitchen, with the Salvation Army and the local Friendship Centre providing hot meals. To date, the fund has raised over $35,000 with a goal to raise $100,000. This week, the community foundation is in the process of already dispersing two thirds of the money raised. 

“There is a lot of anxiety that’s arising, and if we can pause and breathe, connect with each other, and work closely together, we’re going to be able to accomplish so much more,” said Tracey Vavrek, CEO of CFNWAB.

Vavrek knows that this is only an immediate response, and the community will need resources over the longterm. Thus, a second fund has also been established: the Better Together COVID-19 Response Fund. This fund will seek to address mental health impacts and other challenges resulting from the pandemic over the long-term.