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Powell River United Way receives 5,000 face coverings that are going to 12 organizations

Masks ready for distribution; Program provides budget flexibility

Powell River and District United Way has received 5,000 masks that will be distributed to 12 organizations throughout the qathet region.

This is part of a province-wide program called One Million Masks, where one million disposable masks have been procured by BC Ferries and several other businesses and organizations, partnering with United Way, to support those who might need a mask but are unable to access one.

Julie Jenkins, Powell River and District Way director of community engagement and resource development, said United Way of the Lower Mainland, and several businesses and transportation company partners, have been working on this for quite some time in response to needs in communities across the province for people who might not have access to masks. Jenkins was contacted by United Way of the Lower Mainland, asking how many masks might be needed in the region here. She quickly reached out to a number of local programs and community groups United Way works with to determine how many they could use.

“We arrived at a number of 5,000 and we were able to secure that amount from the one million that are being distributed across the province,” said Jenkins. “We have 12 local agencies and programs that are going to be receiving masks.”

The organizations include: the hygiene cupboard program (Powell River and District United Way); Métis Nation Powell River; Miklat Recovery Society; ORCA (On the Road with Children’s Activities) Bus program; Powell River Action Centre Food Bank; Powell River Brain Injury Society; Powell River Child, Youth and Family Services Society; Powell River Hospice Society; Powell River Senior Citizens Association Branch 49; Strive Living Society; Texada Food Bank; and Tla’amin Health Elders Program.

Jenkins said the program is serendipitous because she started to hear some concerns in the community about masks in the fall as requirements for personal protective equipment (PPE) were popping up.

“Not everyone has access to a clean mask and some people don’t have access to laundry facilities for reusable masks,” said Jenkins. “We started to collect donations of masks for the hygiene cupboard at United Way, but nothing of this scale.

“This is really helpful because we were able to reach out to community partners and almost everyone wrote back and said they could use them and their clients could use them.”

Jenkins said she was glad to see the masks are of high quality.

She said the neat thing about the project is different organizations are able to come together and pull off such a large distribution across the province and in the community.

Jenkins said she is pleased that United Way can be involved in such a project, and that distribution of the masks should help to continue with low case counts of COVID-19 in Powell River.

“The PPE and masks are an essential part of keeping people safe and we want to make sure those safety provisions are equitable, that people have equal access to the PPE that’s required to stay safe, and they are not having to make sacrifices or difficult choices to make that happen,” said Jenkins. “We want to make sure people are continuing to access the community services they need and if there are barriers in place, we are able to address those in a collaborative and timely way.”

Jenkins said it has been incredible to watch community-based organizations and local services adapt their programs since last March. A part of that is ensuring everybody is safe, including clients and staff.

“We’re really happy to contribute in any way we can and the masks initiative is a great opportunity,” said Jenkins.

She said this type of project is the kind of role United Way plays in the community.

“It’s part of our model to be ready to adapt to emergency situations like this,” said Jenkins. “Thanks to our volunteers and community partners, and our donors and corporate sponsors; it’s really a collaborative effort. It’s neat to watch it happen.”

Jenkins said when the masks mandate came down last November, it was a real concern and community organizations have been filling this need for their clients. She said the masks project is one cost that United Way can help take off the budgets of these organizations. In these instances, money can be used for something else rather than the purchase of masks.

“We are all looking forward to a future where we don’t need to wear masks anymore but for now, this is what’s going to get us there,” said Jenkins. “It’s an important step. Nobody knows how long this is going to go on. It’s requiring us to come together and work together.

“It’s so important that people are able to continue to access services. If we can help support that safely, that’s what we’re here for. I keep thinking about one million masks across the province and that’s a big operation. It’s possible because these local groups have the community connections and because of the big partners that joined in and made the masks donation possible.”

Contributing masks to the project were: Deloitte Canada, TransLink, OEC Group, Vancouver Airport Authority (YVR), BC Ferries, BCAA, SCI and BC Transit.