Rising COVID-19 cases putting strain on Calgary charity organization

As COVID-19 cases continue to rise, charitable organizations in the city like Harvest Hills Cares have been overwhelmed with requests for help.

The organization has only been around since the spring and provides food hampers to families in need, many of whom are dealing with impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’ve been getting slammed with requests from many people who are in isolation, quarantine, people who have lost their jobs, have not been able to find a job,” Harvest Hills Cares founder Jennifer Rapuano-Kremenik said.

According to Rapuano-Kremenik, Harvest Hills Cares isn’t the only organization inundated with requests for food hampers.

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She said rising cases of COVID-19 and the economic fallout of the pandemic are the compounding factors behind the spike in demand for these organizations.

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“People who are facing eviction that if they want to avoid eviction, they give up their food budget,” Rapuano-Kremenik said. “They have to rely on food banks and the Food Bank is being slammed, and all other groups that do food hampers are being slammed as well.” ‘

For Harvest Hills Cares, the recent influx of calls has come from communities in the city’s northeast following an influx in new cases of COVID-19.

According to data from Alberta Health Services, Calgary’s upper-northeast neighbourhoods have the highest active COVID-19 cases in the city with 547 as of Tuesday, while the lower-northeast neighbourhoods aren’t far behind with 283 active cases of COVID-19.

Ward 5 city councillor George Chahal called the recent increase concerning but said it can be attributed to the number of front-line staff that live in those communities.

“Northeast Calgarians are working on the front lines,” Chahal said. “You see folks working in the warehousing sector, driving long haul trucks, working in grocery stores and in nursing homes and they have large extended families. So we do see higher transmission rates here now.”

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Chahal said the rising cases have prompted a negative perception of residents in the northeast, which has added more strain to a significantly stressful situation in the area following the hail storm in June.

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The Insurance Bureau of Canada said the June 13 storm caused at least $1.2 billion in insured damages, making it the fourth-most expensive insured natural disaster in Canadian history.

Last month, city officials said that less than half of the 70,000 insurance claims filed following the storm had been resolved, and many homeowners are still waiting for repairs.

“Many residents in northeast Calgary have a lot of damage to their homes: broken windows, damaged siding, and roofs,” Chahal said. “And they’re still working hard to provide for our local economy.”

Now as winter sets in, Rapuano-Kremenik feels something needs to be done to reduce the transmission of COVID-19, and help those who continue to struggle through the pandemic.

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“A lot of people are going to be left facing eviction because they can’t work because they are in isolation,” she said. “That’s why a lot of people are going to work while symptomatic because they don’t have a choice, they don’t have the help.”

Harvest Hills Cares is asking Calgarians for donations to their Christmas Hamper campaign.

According to Rapuano-Kremenik, the donations are critical so the group can tailor hampers for the families in need.

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Chahal echoed the group’s call for donations, as well as urged Calgarians to step up to not only help flatten the curve but help others in need as well.

“I think it’s an important time as Calgarians we come together and work together for the help and safety of everybody,” Chahal said.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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