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Volunteer group ready to lend a hand to those in isolation

When COVID-19 cases in Bow Valley spiked at the beginning of December, a grassroots volunteer effort – Three Communities: One Valley – began to help those in quarantine or isolation by picking up and delivering things like mail, groceries and medications.
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Auroa Borin on Tuesday (Dec. 15). EVAN BUHLER RMO PHOTO
BOW VALLEY – Three Communities: One Valley is a volunteer organization that has sprung up in the Bow Valley to help address the challenges faced by those who are suddenly forced to quarantine or self-isolate due to COVID-19.

The active case count reached almost 200 people in Banff and Lake Louise in early December, and after factoring in close contacts and those waiting for test results, program founder and Banff co-ordinator Aurora Borin recognized an immediate need in the community.

“That’s a lot of people that are going to have to be staying home,” Borin said. “These people aren’t [all] going to stay home. They’re not going to know what to do. They’re not going to know how to get their mail, they’re not going to know how to get their food.”

At about the same time – and as a direct result of a province-wide surge in cases – contact tracing through Alberta Health Services experienced a dip in operational efficiency and not everyone was getting the timely information they needed to stay safe. Test results were also taking days to come back.

“So, I posted in one of the local groups. I was like, ‘Hey, if you need your stuff, put it in here, somebody will figure out how to get it for you. Don’t leave your house, don’t take that risk. It’s not worth it.’ ”

Building on the original outreach, Canmore co-ordinator Brenda Stanton joined Borin and proposed expanding the idea.

“I just kind of sent Aurora a message, and I said, ‘You know, I think this is way bigger than what happened in the spring, and valley wide, so let’s try and make sure we can help the whole valley, and do it in a co-ordinated fashion,’” Stanton said.

The newly formed group recognized the need to take pressure off the municipalities by trying to take care of the little things for people as they waited for their diagnosis, or waited out their quarantine.

“We started with knowing that in Banff, a lot of folks are general delivery,” Stanton said. “That was our first step. Let’s make sure we keep folks out of the post office and remove that temptation. So, that was a big focus, as was making sure they could get their groceries.”

In addition to mail and groceries, picking up pet meds, over the counter pharmaceuticals, or necessities from the hardware store, were also errands the volunteers were happy to run. Banff Food Rescue has also reached out and plans are in the works to expand that program up to Lake Louise using the same network of volunteers.

“We want to make sure that people realize that if you are self-isolating because you’re immune compromised, that counts,” Stanton said. “We aren’t going to question, you know, are you isolating because the doctors told you you had to, or are you doing it on your own accord.

“And I think that’s really important when it comes to our seniors as well. If they want us to pick stuff up at the library or what have you, because they’ve opted to stay in to keep themselves healthy. That’s all part of it.”    

The network of support is growing by the day, and the group has built relationships with area businesses in an effort to keep the process as safe as possible while shopping local. Orders are processed and paid for directly through the business by the customer before volunteer pick up, and Tuesdays and Fridays are the primary delivery days.

A simple front door drop-off is accompanied by a text or phone call, and an agreement with Roam Transit also allows volunteers to use public transit free of charge while making deliveries.

Joining Borin and Stanton at the Three Communities: One Valley program is Lake Louise co-ordinator Danielle Morine, while people from Exshaw have also expressed an interest in participating.

“I think it’s important to add as well,” Borin said, “that in terms of Exshaw and Dead Man’s Flats, they are in a different health region, and that kind of travel is not currently advised.”

From the start of the pandemic the Stoney Nakoda First Nation has been keenly aware of reducing traffic to and from their communities to reduce exposure. Ideally, someone will step up in the MD of Bighorn to coordinate operations there.

“If we get someone willing to do that in Exshaw or Dead Man’s Flats, then we can also reduce inter-health zone travel as well, which I think is also a win.”

To volunteer, or request support in these difficult times, email bowvalleyisolations@gmail.com, or text 403-679-3340.