Neighbours Helping Neighbours extends a hand from the heart
By Darren Lum
The Ritchie Falls Road bridge Bonnie Roe stands on offers a kind of symbolism as she talks about her Neighbours Helping Neighbours COVID-19 Support Network and the help the service can provide.
The support network is bridging the divide between people by offering free help throughout Haliburton County in the form of outdoor chores such as cutting and piling wood, making deliveries of mail, picking up takeout food or groceries, and checking in with people by phone or email.
About a month ago, Bonnie and Greg Roe thought of the concept for Neighbours Helping Neighbours, but was primarily focused on just those people on her road.
“I initially said to Greg, ‘Let’s start with our road. Even though it’s early let’s be prepared and let’s just reach out and see who would like to be involved, who might need some support, who might like to be involved as a volunteer and see where that took us,’” she said.
At first six people committed and now that group has grown to 30 people from an area beyond Ritchie Falls Road and includes four university students who are home right now. She notes several of the volunteers in her area will be focusing their efforts close to their homes.
Neighbours of Roe, Marie and Ray Siebner appreciate the sentiment behind Neighbours Helping Neighbours, which has already led to a series of thoughtful actions they won’t soon forget.
There was an Easter gift left on their deck from the Roes, who delivered an Easter bouquet of leafy branches decorated with colourful eggs and chocolates, and then there was a phone call from their neighbours to check in, leaving them smiling long after.
The Siebners said they were moved to tears by the Easter gift and became inspired to make a turkey dinner and deliver it to family and friends.
“Our hearts are full and stress levels lowered by having neighbours surprise us with good deeds, and encouraging us to do the same. Together neighbourhoods can truly make a difference during difficult times, believe us, we know!” Marie wrote in an email.
The initiative is important because when everybody looks out for each other, no one is alone during the health crisis, Roe said.
“Most of us are couples and we haven’t needed that support, but I also thought what if one of us … got ill and we were quarantined? We don’t have children at all ... we have lots of friends nearby and I said, ‘You know, we might just be able to pick up something for people when we got to town,’” she said.
A neighbour of hers, Steve Brand, owner and founder of TekRider of Kinmount, recently made the necessary modifications at his manufacturing facility to be able to produce personal protection equipment for the area. Brand serves as an example of the collaborative spirit that is alive and well in her neighbourhood, she said.
If there is any perceived overlap with other volunteering groups or services such as Haliburton Caremongers, Roe said it’s not on purpose. The main thing, she said, is the collaboration that is at work now.
“I posted on their [Facebook] page [Haliburton Caremongers] when they began and we continue to share information and stay connected. Our group of 30 volunteers could be a resource to them as well. I see us all working together for the common good as the need for a variety of supports has truly just begun,” she wrote in an email.
She was not surprised that so many people were willing to step up to help.
“It’s an amazing place to live. I think it says that people want to help however they can and those who have free time now probably have more time to volunteer than they might have if they were holding down a job so I think it’s a win-win situation,” she said.