Volunteer delivery service winds down

By Natali Trivuncic
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic was full of uncertainty. Almost a year later, people and businesses have found ways to adapt and help each other in the community.

In March 2020, local teen Ray Calder created the Rainy River District COVIDelivery group on Facebook, that aimed to help deliver essential groceries and supplies to those unable to go out themselves due to self-isolation or being part of a high risk group.

“I think we had around 25 volunteers the first time around probably late March or the first part of April last year, right when things were just starting to shut down and a lot of people were returning from travels and having to quarantine for 14 days. We had quite a few requests in the early days because of that,” said Lisa Brockie, who handles calls and messages for the Rainy River District COVIDelivery.

The initial response was overwhelming because many people were self-isolating after returning from trips and many seniors could not risk leaving their homes, Brockie said, adding that since then, requests have decreased.

Brockie got involved with the service as a volunteer and later came on board to help Calder when the requests were too overwhelming to handle on his own, but they have not had any requests this month.

Brockie said they did just over 100 deliveries in total from March until now. There were not many requests in June so they decided to suspend the service, Brockie added.

“We thought that was the end of it and then we got a handful in January,” Brockie said. “A lot of our volunteers who were off work last year are now back so we had a smaller group of volunteers sign up to help and then all of a sudden, we didn’t get any more calls.”

Brian Cawston, owner of Einar’s Foods in Fort Frances, has quite a popular grocery delivery service. Cawston said the service was busy because of the pandemic but has now gone back to its usual flow.

Cawston said he is happy that the delivery service which runs twice a week, has been steady. He said that more people are opting for it or for curbside pickup.

“We have some people who do more curbside,” Cawston said. “A lot of people phoning in and we get ready for them and then they just come in and pick it up.”

Brockie said she thinks one of the reasons the demand for the COVIDelivery service dropped was because stores were pivoting to curbside pickup and that many people were able to get family members to buy their necessities.

“Overall I think it was really positive, especially back when there weren’t really many options for people and there was a lot of fear when we didn’t know much about the virus, how it was spread and who was most at risk,” Brockie said. “There was a lot of gratitude from the people who were getting the delivery to know that they didn’t have to put their health at risk or go without their necessities.”

Brockie said the service is currently running but they are in discussion of whether to continue it.