Beach days, regular hikes and daily walks used to be par for the course for many before the pandemic. During a global health crisis such outings took on new meaning and importance, especially for Community Living Fort Erie participants, who face barriers to community inclusion even when they’re not trying to keep safe from COVID-19.
“All people deserve the opportunity to participate in their community and get out,” said Margaret Fidler, manager of community development for Community Living Fort Erie. “Our mission is to promote inclusion, so we feel people should have the opportunity to participate in the same opportunities as everyone else.”
That’s why it was critical the organization receive a $15,000 grant to purchase a van that could shuttle participants to and from activities in their community. Funding for the van came from the David S. Howes Fund Grants Program, which provides financial assistance to support post-secondary, facilities, research, health-care services, education and humanitarian issues.
The new wheels were originally intended to get participants out and about to restaurants and other local events and activities. But the van became a vehicle for combatting pandemic-induced isolation and loneliness instead. It’s been used daily since it was acquired, getting Community Living participants to the beach on a summer day, helping them hit a local hiking trail, or taking them to popular spots for a stroll so they can safely reconnect with their community.
“The purchase of this van became even more important due to the pandemic,” said Vickie Moreland, Community Living’s executive director.
“The van provides an opportunity for people to travel safely during this crisis. Being able to travel outside of the home has helped to alleviate feelings of isolation and hopelessness by getting people to outdoor spaces where they can still social distance and participate in low-risk activities because they have transportation available.”