Eden Pletner has always loved coffee house concerts.
"(They're) a cozy environment that really just feel welcoming and warm."
She's been studying at McGill University in Montreal but was forced to return home to North Rustico earlier than usual this year when COVID-19 restrictions started to rise. While she had family to keep her company, she found herself feeling for those forced into more intense isolation, such as seniors' home residents.
So, she decided to start putting on a coffee house for them – but not in person.
"It was a combination of what I'm passionate about and wanting to help people," she said.
She put together Glowing Hearts Coffee House, a non-profit that uses internet video-streaming services such as Zoom to provide interactive entertainment to those who are elderly, more vulnerable or just want to enjoy some tunes.
Pletner partnered with Villa Marguerite Seniors' Home in North Rustico to stream music to its residents. She sings and plays guitar, but the idea is to have a lineup of various local musicians playing for their neighbours, she said.
"There's no bar. It doesn't have to be professional musicians."
She's also working with the Town of North Rustico, who offered its support, as well as MLA Brad Trivers who represents the region. Trivers tries to visit seniors' homes regularly, so when Pletner pitched the idea to him he knew she was onto something, he said.
"Even if COVID-19 wasn't going on, I think it'd be a valuable service," he said. "(And) it ended up I had something to offer."
Trivers and some members of his part-time band, Party Mix, played a full set of songs during the non-profit's pilot event at Seawalk Park on July 13. There were a few technical hiccups, but he thinks it's going to be a fantastic way to give back to the community, he said.
Ashley Kingate, care manager of Villa Marguerite, said the pilot was a treat for residents, who enjoyed the show from the comfort of their building about 300 metres away.
"It was a huge hit," she said.
She has been finding it hard to find entertainment for residents during the pandemic, so when Pletner approached her she jumped on board. Glowing Hearts provided snacks and refreshments, and since it was a two-way video call, Trivers was very personable with the residents. Many of them also sang along, Kingate said.
"It was nice to see that sparkle in some of their eyes again."
The plan is to hold weekly livestreams for the rest of the summer at Villa Marguerite and possibly to start streaming to other seniors' homes and communities. Pletner considers the pilot event to be a success and is excited to see things moving forward.
She wants Glowing Hearts to become a sustainable organization, so she's hoping to create a team of people to help it grow, to acquire better tech and possibly to expand beyond just music, she said.
"Eventually I'm hoping to stream lots of community events," she said. "(Because) it's not just music. It's interaction."
To find out more about Glowing Hearts Coffee House, click here.
Daniel Brown is a local journalism initiative reporter, a position funded by the federal government.