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Coronavirus crisis taking big bite out of P.E.I. charities, non-profits

More than 200 families picked up groceries at the food bank in Charlottetown between March 16 and 23. Mike MacDonald, executive director of the Upper Room Hospitality Ministry, says  people he has never seen before, as well as others he has not seen in a long time, are coming in for food.
More than 200 families picked up groceries at the food bank in Charlottetown between March 16 and 23. Mike MacDonald, executive director of the Upper Room Hospitality Ministry, says people he has never seen before, as well as others he has not seen in a long time, are coming in for food. - Jim Day

Aaron Brown is urging the province to assist non-profit organizations to maintain continuity during the coronavirus (COVID-19 strain) crisis.

The CEO of Habitat for Humanity P.E.I. says help is needed to ensure non-profits are “still standing’’ once this unprecedented global crisis has been averted.

Non-profit organizations and charities say the impact from the pandemic has been immediate and may have ripple effects in the long term.

Habitat for Humanity, which has provided 72 families with safe, affordable housing across P.E.I. since 1996, is certainly feeling the pinch.

Brown says the organization was forced to close its ReStore last Tuesday as part of widespread closures aimed at curbing the spread of the potentially deadly disease.

The home décor, building supply and home renovation store that accepts and resells new and gently-used items is the main funding source for Habitat for Humanity, generating between $500,000 and $600,000 in revenue each year.

Revenue also comes, of course, from mortgage payments.

Currently, 42 mortgages are on the books. However, many of the homeowners have been laid off.

Brown says Habitat for Humanity is dealing with mortgages on a case-by-case basis, noting payments will be deferred as needed.

Adding to the organization’s plight, volunteers are no longer assisting in the build of a house in the late stages of construction in Harrington. Just one staff member is tackling the job.

The longer the crisis continues, the less likely Habitat for Humanity will be undertaking any new builds this year, says Brown.

The Kingston Legion has cancelled regular Bingo and Cribbage games as the province grapples with the coronavirus (COVID-19 strain) pandemic. - Nathan Rochford
The Kingston Legion has cancelled regular Bingo and Cribbage games as the province grapples with the coronavirus (COVID-19 strain) pandemic. - Nathan Rochford

 

The province announced a $500,000 fund earlier this month for three large non-profit organizations, as well as other community programs. The United Way of P.E.I. will receive $250,000 from the fund, while the Salvation Army of Prince Edward Island and the P.E.I. Food Bank Association will each receive $100,000. A further $50,000 will be allocated for community programs and other non-profit organizations.

Mike MacDonald, executive director of the Upper Room Hospitality Ministry, is unsure how far the $100,000 will go.

All six food banks across P.E.I., he notes, are “quite busy".

More than 200 families have picked up groceries at the food bank in Charlottetown between March 16 and 23.

MacDonald is seeing people he has never seen before, as well as others he has not seen in a long time.

People are telling him they have lost their job, do not know what to do and are need of help.

“We’ve certainly never seen anything like this,’’ he says.

“The biggest thing we can do now is ensure we are stocked with food.’’

The next scheduled food drive is in mid-June, but even that date is a wait-and-see situation.

MacDonald says donations of food are still being accepted at the food bank in Charlottetown, but people are asked to call ahead at 902-892-7092 to make their arrangements for the drop off.

“We’ve certainly never seen anything like this. The biggest thing we can do now is ensure we are stocked with food.’’

- Mike MacDonald

Tracey Comeau, CEO of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Foundation, says the impact of the coronavirus could mean a fundraising hit to the foundation in the hundreds of thousands of dollars this year.

Many events that raise money for the annual QEH/Eastlink Telethon, which raised $641,525 in 2019 for P.E.I.'s largest hospital, have been cancelled due to the health crisis.

“It’s unnerving,’’ she says, adding the QEH Foundation is very appreciative of all the people who, year after year, hold events to raise money for the foundation.

A staff meeting will be held along with Eastlink to discuss the 2020 telethon that is slated to be held May 23-24.

“We have to look at all options,’’ says Comeau.

Meanwhile, the QEH Foundation is committed to funding equipment needed for a secondary intensive care space being established in the hospital for isolation of patients presenting with COVID-19 and requiring intubation/ventilation.

Donations to support the purchase of the equipment – two reverse osmosis machines costing $35,000 – can be made by visiting www.qehfoundation.pe.ca and clicking “Donate Now’’.

The Canadian Cancer Society announced late last week it has stopped fundraising efforts and events through the month of April, including its successful annual daffodil campaign.

“If you have already paid or collected donations, we hope your organization or colleagues choose to convert the presale into a donation,’’ the organization said in a release.

Andrea Seale, chief executive officer of the Canadian Cancer Society, expects a drop of about $20 million in fundraising in April, which is promoted by the organization as daffodil month.

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