Technology donation to food bank supports social distancing while mitigating social isolation

Kyra Hoggan
By Kyra Hoggan
March 19th, 2020

The critical role technology will play during the COVID crisis – particularly within the community’s most vulnerable population – was underscored by a donation this week to the Community Harvest Food Bank in Castlegar.

“An important part of our mandate here is to create a social environment, a place to participate, and way to prevent socialisolation, not promote it,” said food bank co-ordinator Deb McIntosh. “Obviously, that has changed a lot, and to keep our clients and community healthy, we’ve had to cancel and postpone our social events and face-to-face time, which can be a real hardship for our clients.

“But that doesn’t mean we’ll stop providing services to help mitigate isolation (and, of course, provide food) – it just means we have to get creative and find out what other options are available to make sure the needs of our community – particularly those most vulnerable – are met with compassion, kindness and inclusivity.”

To that end, McIntosh posted the following on her Facebook page, “Is there a person/business/organization that would consider donating a lap top or tablet to the food bank. With the closure of the Library some of our folks will be disconnected from family, Drs, gov agencies etc. Please message me if you can help.”

Immediately, Yanive Feiner of Supercat Studios provided a tablet, while a Fortis technological analyst, Mike Hendriks, saw the post.

“I was home browsing Facebook and I saw the post from Deb – I forwarded it to Clay and he just ran with it,” he said – Clay being Clay Stooshnoff, Fortis manager of information systems operations. “We do get requests occasionally from charities, youth groups, churches (etc.) for hardware that we no longer use, but that’s perfectly function for personal use. We’re always on the lookout for ways to help.”

Stooshnoff was all over the idea and brought it to his team.

“Strong community builds strong community,” he said.

Up next came John MacLeod, also a Fortis tech analyst, who managed to dig up two recently-retired laptops, which he then got up to snuff with hardware like charging cords, etc., then erased all Fortis data and installed a fresh version of Windows 10 including drivers, updates and so forth.

“It was a small task on my side, we do this kind of work every day,” MacLeod said. “Just knowing it makes a difference in the community – it’s nice to be able to help out once in a while.”

And what a help it is.

“Laptops may seem like an indulgence, a toy, and maybe extravagant when our goal is to shore up basic needs … but nothing could be farther from the truth,” she said. “Think about all the things connectivity can do for a person with limited means and/or ability …

“School work for home instruction and lifelong learning (an active mind is part of a healthy body), updates on how to stay safe during the health emergency, access and applications to a variety of governmental and non-governmental resources, information about local businesses and services, paying bills/banking, and, of course, social media and email to stay connected with family and friends. Even just knowing the weather forecast can have a serious impact on quality of life if mobility is an issue.

“The list goes on and on. In this day and age, especially with the COVID concerns, connectivity can help protect and promote healthier bodies, minds and bank accounts – otherwise, the most vulnerable in our community get marginalized even more in a situation like this. It can actually become a very cruel and potentially dangerous punishment for people to be utterly cut off from the community around them.”

She said the food bank, while no longer having stay-in events, is still providing food/healthy snacks for pick-up, and other necessities – and the need is growing as people find themselves struggling with layoffs, childcare issues, and service reduction across the country.

McIntosh said she has no doubt Castlegar and District will rally for its own.

“The generosity of this community knocks me out,” she said, adding if ever there was cause for optimism, this is it. “We’ll get through this one way or another – but it’s all so much easier when we do it together.”

To donate to the Community Harvest Food Bank, please contact McIntosh at 250-608-1047.

Categories: General