The Best Kind of Positive

Local People Act to Support
Our Community in Pandemic

Story by Karen Paton-Evans

COVID-19 is certainly turning our world upside down. People with courage and creativity are finding ways to make the best of this unprecedented situation by taking positive actions throughout our community. Here are just a few examples.


Von And Volunteers Drive The Meals On Wheels Program
People with health and mobility issues confining them indoors could give coping tips to residents struggling with staying home during the COVID-19 lockdown.

While reasonably self-sufficient, one thing 140 local shut-ins require is meal delivery. The Victorian Order of Nurses (VON) Windsor-Essex has adapted its Meals on Wheels program, forgoing its usual daily delivery of hot meals and substituting with a weekly supply of frozen meals. Dishes are prepared in a commercial kitchen by separated chefs. The food is then organized for safe delivery.

A volunteer places the package at a senior’s door and backs away to a safe distance. When the senior appears, they enjoy a chat and check all is well. These dedicated volunteers ensure 700 meals reach vulnerable residents weekly, helping them to continue living independently in their own homes.

Food Banks Set Up Drive Thru Food Hubs
Understanding that limiting contact with other people is critical in managing the spread of COVID-19, local food banks are finding alternative ways to provide food to fill bellies.

The Unemployed Help Centre of Windsor Inc., the hub for the Windsor Essex Food Bank Association and its 15 member food banks, has created four special Drive Thru Food Hubs.

Eligible residents receive a prepackaged food hamper by driving to a Drive Thru Food Hub, popping their trunk and waiting inside their vehicle while a volunteer loads the hamper.

People without vehicles can keep physical distancing at a walk-up area where their food hamper will roll out on a conveyor. 

Windsor’s east end is served by the drive thru at 6955 Cantelon Dr., while west end folks have easier access to the drive thru at St. Michael’s Adult Secondary School at 477 Detroit St.
Leamington residents can go to the hub at the Salvation Army at 88 Setterington St. Belle River’s hub is located at 962 Old Tecumseh Rd.

Several thousand people have turned to local food banks since COVID-19 lockdown began. Many are first-time users, including former donors.


Medical Gown Fabric Is Produced In Place Of Airbags
Already in the business of saving lives as the world’s largest automotive safety supplier, Autoliv in Tilbury has shifted gears from making side-curtain airbags used in vehicles to now manufacturing fabric for medical gowns required by frontline healthcare workers.

Autoliv was scheduled to halt its airbag production on April 9 due to COVID-19 restrictions when the federal and provincial governments appealed to Canadian manufacturers, asking for their help in fabricating huge quantities of essential personal protective equipment in short order.

Approximately one-third of the 220 members employed by the Autoliv plant were put into action to complete the federal government’s requisition for 168,000 square metres of fabric needed for the manufacture of 56,000 level two gowns.

The medical gown’s design is woven directly into the fabric, “which will reduce the need to cut and sew seams. It will then be sent to an apparel manufacture for final touches,” says Bob Ashton, president of Unifor Local 1941. “We are so proud to do our part.”

Ford Helps Essential Workers Face Covid-19
Outputting two to three medical face shields per minute, a small local crew is conscious of the great need for lifesaving PPE.

Just 14 employees are on face shield duty in the big Ford Windsor Engine Plant. Working in a secluded area at a safe distance of 10 to 15 feet apart, they assemble Lexan, sponge, elastic bands and face covers to construct the barrier that prevents coronavirus droplets from infecting frontline healthcare and essential workers.

“It’s not much to it, but this thing will save lives and help hundreds of thousands of people,” says Unifor Local 200 president John D’Agnolo. The team is pleased to be doing their part to “support the workers throughout our community.”

Noting the chronic shortage of PPE locally and worldwide, John observes, “We always talk about the importance of industry being in our communities for financial reasons, but here’s another reason why you need industry in your communities.”

Thousands of the disposable face shields have already been shipped in Canada, including to Windsor Regional Hospital, Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare, Erie Shores HealthCare, the Downtown Mission of Windsor and longterm care homes.

“By repurposing our production facilities in Windsor to meet the urgent demand for face shields, we can help protect the lives of our heroic healthcare professionals and first responders as they continue to treat the most vulnerable among us,” says Dean Stoneley, president and CEO, Ford Motor Co. of Canada.

The company and its employees also made another welcome delivery to hospitals with their donation of 2,900 pairs of nitrile gloves.


Big Brothers Big Sisters Overcome Lockdown Challenges
Uncertainty and instability are tough for adults to navigate – and are also hard for young people to handle. Offering reassurance, Big Brothers Big Sisters is enabling kids to stay connected to their mentors, even when physical distancing means they can’t be together in the usual ways.

Online visits are providing a safe bridge. Big Brothers and Big Sisters are enjoying quality time with the children and youth they mentor, playing games, reading aloud and learning to do crafts and activities while hanging out in their separate homes.

Letting loose in one another’s company, a welcome sense of the familiar arises. That may open the door to “having some difficult conversations about our ‘new normal,’” says Rose Culmone, director of programs for Big Brothers Big Sisters.

She says, “It is with utmost gratitude and appreciation that we acknowledge all of our partners for persevering to make a difference in the lives of the children/youth of Windsor and Essex County during this unprecedented time.”

Uniting Unemployed Workers With Essential Service Jobs
While government mandates have shut the doors on numerous types of businesses during lockdown, others are open and wanting to hire.

Unemployed people seeking work need to know who is looking for them.

To assist in the mutual search, the City of Windsor and Workforce WindsorEssex have partnered in establishing an essential-worker registry. The collaboration is borne out of the Windsor-Essex COVID Care Coalition.

Workforce WindsorEssex collects resumes. The City’s employment caseworkers register and contact people to fill essential service positions.

Additional team efforts between the City’s Employment & Training Services and Workforce WindsorEssex is strengthening the existing WEskills Database to assist essential businesses during COVID-19. Job developers consult with employers to determine their current hiring requirements.

“The Essential Worker Registry will make it easier for all area Employment Ontario service providers to fill urgent job vacancies collaboratively through a resume database,” says Workforce WindsorEssex CEO Justin Falconer. “Anyone able to work in a non-healthcare essential business is encouraged to register locally” at .

Mayor Drew Dilkens remarks, “The City of Windsor is proud to support efforts to link employers and employees in these uncertain times, and to well-position the community to respond to the economic considerations we will face after we get past the worst of the pandemic.”

Windsor Essex Seniors Call Assurance
Program Reaches Out To Isolated Residents

Assistance is a phone call away for local seniors living in isolation in the midst of the pandemic.

The Windsor-Essex COVID Care Coalition has launched a new initiative in response to the coronavirus lockdown. The Windsor Essex Seniors Call Assurance program offers residents peace of mind with telephone check-ins and referrals to other community supports.

Seniors age 55 and older can sign up for the program by calling 877-771-2677. They will be referred to an organization in their neighbourhood which will take care of making a security check call.  Alzheimer Society of Windsor-Essex County, Amherstburg Community Services, Community Support Centre of Essex County, Life After Fifty, South Essex Community Council, the Hospice of Windsor and Essex County and VON Windsor have teamed together to deliver the Windsor Essex Seniors Call Assurance program.

“As a community, we know that a lack of social connections and social isolation is a great risk factor for older adults,” says Sally Bennett Olczak, CEO, Alzheimer Society of Windsor and Essex County. “The Alzheimer Society is pleased to act as the central intake agency to provide wrap-around care and support for seniors who call the support line at this critical time.”

United Way/Centraide Windsor-Essex County has been given $102,499 through the Government of Canada New Horizons for Seniors grant program to support local seniors emergency response services till the end of June.

“Seniors in our community are not only at the highest risk of poor health due to the COVID-19 crisis, but they are also much more likely to be negatively affected by increased social isolation measures,” says Lorraine Goddard, CEO of United Way/Centraide Windsor-Essex County. “These funds help us ensure that while vulnerable seniors are isolated, they are also supported.”


Support From The Home Team
Tristan, age 3, may not understand what a coronavirus is but he is an expert in making noises loud enough to reach local healthcare and other essential workers. Every night, he and his brother, Calhen, 7, grab their cowbells and join their pot and spoon wielding parents or grandparents – whichever grownups are caring for them that day.

Like clockwork, in another local neighbourhood, the boys’ cousins, Maksim, 5, and Adelina, just 20 months old, are brought out by their parents, Jordan and Amanda.

“At 7:30 pm, our family drops everything and goes out onto our front porches to make noise for all essential workers,” says grandma Mary Godwin.

Her daughter, Meagan, is a registered nurse working at Windsor Regional Hospital. Meagan posts videos of her family’s rousing show of appreciation to her social media, letting her colleagues in the ICU and COVID-19 units know they are thinking of them.

“So many people working in hospitals are dealing with coronavirus patients. They are taking extreme measures to keep everybody safe. Some staff are living in campers in their driveways rather than risk bringing the disease into their homes and infecting their loved ones,” Mary notes. “I worry about my own family as they are closest to my heart. But I am also concerned about every person working in the midst of it all, including the hospital housekeeping staff who are cleaning in the areas where COVID-19 is.”

Like many homes throughout Essex and Kent Counties, in the front window of her daughter’s residence, paper hearts surround homemade signs declaring “Hope” and “Thank you for everything you do.” Healthcare workers are encouraged by these simple and sincere messages of their community’s support and encouragement.

Local Musicians Entertain The Neighbours
Playing On The Sunny Side Of The Street and other classic standards on keyboard and trumpet, Dave Willick and his trumpeter friend Kevin Masterson, positioned at a safe distance, perform frequent outdoor concerts, weather depending. Dave’s front porch serves as the stage, within hearing of the applause from his South Windsor neighbours.

“Even if there are only one or two people watching, I love playing for others,” Dave says. “We are probably playing songs people might not recognize, but they are all happy tunes. We are just trying to pick up people’s spirits.”

Classical Cellist Plays From The Rooftop
The alarming number of confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths in Michigan often total two-thirds of Canada’s entire tally. As Windsor-Essex nurses cross the border and risk their lives to attend patients in Detroit area hospitals, non-essential workers are following the government’s direction to stay home. Among them are Haden McKay, a cellist with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and his wife, Nadine Deleury, retired as principal cellist with the Michigan Opera Theatre.

Haden ventured off his Windsor home’s front porch and carried his cello to the flat rooftop of St. Mary’s Anglican Church in Old Walkerville. A camera airlifted by a drone captured his solo performance of Bach’s Allemande from Suite No. 1 in G major.

“We love making music, but it only really has meaning when we share it with others,” Haden says. “Instead of playing on my porch, I chose a unique spot in Windsor. Near the end of the video we can see Detroit’s beautiful skyline, where our beloved Orchestra Hall is nestled among the tall buildings. We look forward to bringing it back to life!”

Drive By Salutes
Handwaving and horn honking have replaced hugs for now, but healthcare workers still feel the love. Parades of Canada Post trucks and classic cars traveled past hospitals to show their gratitude for frontline heroes. Inspired, Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare staff drove their vehicles in a long parade in view of the hospital and longterm care homes.  


Frontline Healthcare Workers Respond To Unknowns
Hoping for the best while preparing for the worst, local hospitals continue to coordinate their efforts and advance best practices.

Nurses are doing thousands of swab tests at the COVID-19 Assessment Centres established at the Windsor Regional Hospital Ouellette Campus and Erie Shores HealthCare in Leamington. Mostly concealed by personal protective equipment, their caring expressions are difficult for patients to see.

To support the tireless efforts of staff working in acute care, and to ensure the community is able to access medical services they need, the team at Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare sprang into action. Staff put in many hours to add extra patient care beds in a shuttered section, enabling HDGH to receive more non-COVID patients in need of non-acute care. Requiring rehabilitation or waiting for longterm care, these people came to HDGH from acute care hospitals after they no longer needed that degree of care.

Staff’s efforts are under the leadership of Janice Kaffer, HDGH president and CEO. She gained useful experience as a frontline nurse manager while serving a Peterborough hospital during the SARS outbreak in 2003. Understanding what is at stake, Janice applauds the courage and compassion of her nurses and their concerned families. “I remember the worry of my own family when I went to work during SARS and so an area of focus for us is to ensure the families of our HDGH staff know we’re doing all we can to keep them safe,” she says.

Across Windsor-Essex County, healthcare workers are wearing T-shirts displaying a heart logo, local hospital colours and the vital message “Together We Stay Strong.”

Janice is pleased by the “remarkable ways that our three organizations work so well” in tandem. She believes local residents are in good hands at Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare, Windsor Regional Hospital and Erie Shores Healthcare. “Our hospital family has embraced the idea that the care we provide to patients is the kind we would want to receive ourselves. Patients, staff and community – we truly are all in this together.”

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