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Vancouver Island volunteers checking in on seniors during pandemic

United Way reports 2,600 phone check-ins and 1,300 ‘virtual visits’

Advocates and agencies are seeing significant volunteer support for seniors during the COVID-19 pandemic.

With the arrival of Seniors Week this week, the United Way estimates that more than 8,500 volunteers around B.C. have stepped up to help isolated neighbours during the pandemic, making 11,000 grocery deliveries, sharing 14,000 meals and participating in more than 50,000 phone calls or “virtual visits,” a press release noted.

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In the United Way Central and Northern Vancouver Island Region, there have been about 2,600 phone check-ins, 1,300 virtual visits and 2,300 meal preparation and deliveries. There have also been 600 grocery drop-offs, 100 prescription drop-offs and 450 other volunteer services including transportation, laundry and more.

The volunteerism is part of a new partnership between the United Way’s Better at Home program, the B.C. Ministry of Health and B.C. 211. Volunteers wishing to help seniors, or seniors asking for help, can call 211 or visit

Kahir Lalji, a provincial director with United Way, said the partnership has helped seniors receive basic necessities and support.

“Because we’re asking everyone to keep close to home, neighbours helping neighbours have been critical during COVID-19,” Lalji said. “We have been overwhelmed by the incredible support for seniors during this difficult time.”

Deborah Hollins, executive director of Nanaimo Family Life Association, said in the release that working with the Safe Seniors, Strong Communities program has been a privilege.

“I’m so proud of my fellow colleagues, staff and volunteers who stepped forward to ensure the older adults in our community are cared for, physically and emotionally,” she said. “We’re not alone and together we are getting through this.”

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Isobel Mackenzie, B.C.’s seniors advocate, said in the release that the program will be a lasting, positive legacy of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This pandemic has shown us that we really do care very deeply about our elderly,” she said.

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