The feeling of helplessness has to rank very near the top on the list of terrible feelings. As we find ourselves in circumstances that are very much beyond our control, many of us are left wondering what we can do to help. We know that there are urgent needs, but we may not know how best to support the people and organizations who are working harder than ever before – which is really saying something – to make a difference. With this in mind, we’ve reached out to several of our not-for-profit clients and friends who are going absolutely above and beyond right now to find ways to continue their work, adjust to the situation, and even ramp up their crucial efforts in our community, and we’ve asked them to share how the rest of us can support them.

The Mustard Seed

What They Do
The Mustard Seed offers critical help to people who are experiencing homelessness and/or poverty. The organization is deeply committed to providing crucial support services without discrimination, including immediate basic needs like clothing and food as well as assisting with longer-term solutions like housing and employment.

How Things Have Changed
Here’s how staff at The Mustard Seed told us they are responding to the pandemic: 

  • Added an additional temporary shelter in Calgary which sleeps 130 people, in order to continue to safely accommodate up to 370 guests per night while spreading out sleeping arrangements. Costs associated with the new temporary shelter include extra transportation for guests, hiring of additional staff, and extra cleaning services.
  • Created ten isolation units downtown for guests showing symptoms of COVID-19 who are waiting on test results. These units are staffed at all times, and have high needs for protective equipment and safety procedures. Many of The Mustard Seed’s wellness staff have been re-deployed in order to open and run these units as quickly and safely as possible.
  • Worked closely with Alberta Health Services to follow changing safety guidelines for guests and staff. This has required sourcing as much PPE as possible, including working with furniture companies and at-home sewing volunteers to make masks and gowns.
  • Cancelled most of The Mustard Seed’s thousands of volunteers. The team is now working to balance reduced programming and increased staffing, both of which affect guests and increase costs.

How You Can Help
“We’ve been incredibly blessed to receive so much support from the community!” staff told us when we reached out. “We have countless examples of food vendors stepping up to support us, financial donations coming in online and through the mail, masks being donated, and so many other creative solutions!” 

Here are some areas where The Mustard Seed could use your support right now:

  • They are still in need of a continued supply of masks, gowns, and commercial sanitizers for shelters and the isolation unit. Find more detail and specifications for PPE needs here.
  • Increased need for financial support will continue over the next few months, as many revenue streams will likely diminish while costs remain higher than normal. 
  • Find a frequently updated list of urgently needed items here. The list includes basics like clothing and hygiene items, and a free pick-up service is available. 

Looking to the future, the staff is hoping to re-connect with local businesses. 

“We are really hoping to partner with small businesses when we’re all able to get back to work,” they told us. They hope to “create small, fun, engaging events and donation drives that will bring exposure to businesses and partners as well as continue to meet the needs of The Mustard Seed.”

Mealshare

What They Do
Mealshare partners with local restaurants and charities in a passionate mission to end youth hunger. When you order a Mealshare Item from the menu at one of their partner restaurants, the restaurant donates $1 to Mealshare, who then forward most of this revenue to their partner charities in order to provide a healthy meal to a youth in need. 

How Things Have Changed
With the hospitality industry hit hard by the pandemic, it’s not surprising that Mealshare has been affected as well. Here’s how they relayed their current situation: 

  • Temporary layoffs of all staff are an unfortunate reality, but this team is so amazing that most staff are still volunteering in order to help the organization and partner charities succeed through this time. 
  • Many restaurant partners have temporarily closed down or can’t afford to support Mealshare right now.
  • Many charity partners are struggling, both financially and with determining how to effectively and safely distribute meals. Most of Mealshare’s charity partners were school-based or club-based initiatives that are no longer running.
  • Many Mealshare sponsors have also been affected, which has implications now and for the future.

How You Can Help
“Our restaurants are going through a battle right now,” says Andrew Hall, co-founder of Mealshare Aid Society. “There are so many great initiatives going on across Canada, city by city, to keep the hospitality sector alive, and support its great people.”

Here’s how Mealshare told us you can help:

  • Engage digitally with Mealshare on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. The team is using these platforms to share positive news, amplify messages, and come out of this stronger.
  • Support your local restaurants that are also Mealshare partners. The full partner list can be found here, and the team is currently working on creating a landing page that will highlight which partner restaurants are still open for takeout or delivery. We’ll share that link when it’s ready, and in the meantime, you can use hashtags like #MealshareYYC or #MealshareYEG to get the latest updates for your city. 
  • Keep in mind that your order doesn’t always have to be a full meal – ordering an appetizer or dessert also helps! 
  • Try to do local delivery or curbside pick-up when you can, as other delivery fees that restaurants incur can add up. 
  • Donate to Mealshare directly. The team is working hard to stick to a tight budget in order to “keep the lights on” and hopefully rehire staff when the situation allows, but in order to do that there are administration and overhead costs that they still need to meet during this time. The easiest way to donate is online at this link. You’ll receive a tax receipt for donations, and Brown Bagging for Calgary’s Kids is helping to match some funds.
  • Support Mealshare’s charity partners! Many are struggling and could use your support more than ever. See the partner charity list here, and refer to their websites and social media feeds to see how you can best help. 

The team at Mealshare continues to be so inspirational and optimistic, even while they face incredible challenges to the work they care so deeply about. Their final suggestion for how you can help reflects that mindset.

“Be kind, patient, and share positive news,” they wrote. “We are in a hard time where everyone is navigating the best we can. Help share each other’s messages, support where and when you can, and be kind.” 

Children’s Wish Foundation Make-a-Wish

What They Do
Children’s Wish Foundation of Canada grants wishes to children who have been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. In just over 30 years, they’ve made more than 25,000 dreams come true, and they are always working hard to reach further and do even more for children and families across Canada. 

How Things Have Changed
It’s hard to imagine something more heartbreaking than being required to halt efforts to bring some joy to the lives of children who are in situations where time is not on their side. Here’s how our friends at Make-a-Wish told us that they’ve been impacted:

  • Over $1.5 million in lost revenue so far, and counting. This number reflects local losses, and the team tells us that losses on a national level are even more devastating.
  • Over 200 wishes have been postponed for children across Canada until it is safe to travel. 
  • Navigating how to grant Rush Wishes if a child is in the end phase of their life. While fortunately at the local level Make-a-Wish has not yet experienced this need, the team here is aware of children in failing health who may sadly end up in this category before the all-clear is given on the pandemic.

How You Can Help
While the situation is difficult to say the least, the Make-a-Wish team has not lost sight of why they do what they do, and how important this is to children and families. 

“Keep referring children,” they told us. “We are still approving wishes. We know in this time that the hope and promise of a wish is even more important for our families to hold on to. Wishes get kids through some hard times, and this pandemic makes things even harder than normal.”

Here are some additional ways you can help: 

    • Donate a handcrafted item to Make It for Wishes, a curated online craft auction. Children’s Wish Foundation of Canada, Alberta and Northwest Territories Chapter is looking for local makers and hobbyists to donate an item they’ve created for an online Facebook auction. You can find more information here
    • Follow Children’s Wish Foundation on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter for information on upcoming online fundraising efforts, including a no-contact bottle drive with Skip the Depot, a local business gift card raffle, and more.
    • World Wish Week is coming up and donations can always be made here

As we all navigate this huge change to our daily lives, it’s important to keep some perspective on our situation, and remember those who we are staying home to protect. 

“Our families are used to isolating a lot of times, due to their child’s fragile health, but this is another layer of fear that they have to navigate when they go out for chemo or other procedures,” Make-a-Wish told us. “In a sense, we are all getting a taste of how they live all the time.”

Alberta Animal Rescue Crew Society (AARCS)

What They Do
AARCS is a grassroots organization on a mission to improve animal welfare in our province by rescuing, rehabilitating, and rehoming animals. They operate AARCS Safe Haven in Calgary, which includes a temporary emergency and quarantine shelter as well as a 3,000 square-foot in-house veterinary hospital, and coordinate fostering and adoptions for rescued animals. 

How Things Have Changed
Animals still need the help and care that AARCs provides, even while us humans are grappling with the pandemic. Here’s how AARC has adjusted operations right now:

  • Limited staff and volunteers on-site, while still caring for the animals currently in shelter or receiving medical care. 
  • Closed to the public except by appointment. If you need to come to the shelter, you’re encouraged to call 403-250-7377.
  • Asking the public to refrain from dropping off supplies and donations in person at Safe Haven until it is once again deemed safe to do so.

How You Can Help
While in-person support may be on hold, there are still many ways you can help AARC in their rescue work:

  • Make a one-time donation or sign up as a monthly donor here
  • Use this link to designate funds from your Skip the Depot bottle and can pick-up directly to AARCS. You’ll receive a tax receipt for your donation.
  • Fetch an item from the AARCS online store. Gift cards are also available.
  • Foster an adult dog or cat in desperate need of shelter. Get more information about fostering here
  • Send a gift via AARCS’ Amazon Wish List

INN from the Cold

What They Do
INN from the Cold was started in 1997 by a small group of Calgary residents who were determined to improve the lives of people experiencing homelessness in our city. Today, the organization is Alberta’s largest family homeless-serving agency, helping thousands of families every year with needs like emergency shelter, affordable housing, and prevention and diversion support.

How Things Have Changed
It’s hard for most of us to accurately imagine how much more frightening and debilitating this situation is for families who do not have stable housing. In the wake of these realities, INN from the Cold is stepping up to provide even more help and hope. Recent changes made include:

  • Transitioned to operating a scattered-site emergency shelter within Calgary, housing our families in safe, private spaces that allow for physical distancing.
  • Continuing to feed families within this scattered-site model through meal service programs. Organizations like Mary Brown’s and Little Caesars have stepped up to provide dinners – an incredible gift to the families that INN from the Cold is feeding during this time.
  • Gift-in-kind donations and drop-off donations are not being accepted at this time, with some exceptions. See below for more on that.

How You Can Help
“We rely on the community for more than 70% of our annual budget, “ says Jose Guillen, Director of External Relations at INN from the Cold. “That support is crucial to our ability to provide emergency shelter and supportive housing to Calgary families facing homelessness. Unfortunately, we expect an increase in the number of families who will need our help in the coming months, and with community support, we will be able to answer that call.” 

Here are some ways you can assist INN from the Cold in their work with vulnerable Calgary families:

  • Monetary donations are critical right now. Funding allows INN from the Cold to adapt to and prepare for all the changes associated with the pandemic. You can donate via their website here.
  • While most gift-in-kind and drop-off donations are not being accepted right now, if you can donate a TV, please contact Tim McGowan at tim@innfromthecold.org.
  • Donate a silent auction item for DreamINN Big! Gala. With confidence and optimism, the team is still planning the Gala for September 25, 2020. Find out more about donating an item by contacting Elizabeth Gray at elizabeth.mj.gray@gmail.com.

There are of course many other incredible organizations in our city, province, and country who are adjusting to major barriers and working harder than ever before during this pandemic. In addition to those mentioned above, we encourage you to check out Brown Bagging for Calgary’s Kids, Canadian Blood Services, Women in Need Society, and Calgary Food Bank. You can also reference Calgary Foundation’s extensive list of local organizations with urgent needs related to the pandemic here, to find a cause that is important to you. 

Wherever and however you choose to channel your support, there are so many ways to make a difference. Let’s turn that helpless feeling into hope.