Eric Prangell is the organizer of the volunteer Facebook group YYC COVID-19 Volunteers. Prangell was photographed in Calgary on Sunday, March 15, 2020. Gavin Young/Postmedia
Calgarians often speak about how the community came together following the 2013 flood, and it’s no different with the novel coronavirus pandemic.
It took just hours for an online Facebook group, called YYC COVID-19 Volunteers, to attract hundreds of Calgarians dedicated to helping community members affected by COVID-19.
Group co-founder Eric Prangnell said he was inspired by the city coming together after the flood and wanted to encourage the same response for those in need now.
“That’s what we need — positivity,” said Prangnell.
“I’m just really happy people are actually doing things. They are delivering food to people and shovelling walks and talking to each other. Complete strangers are forging friendships.”
He said the group, which had more than 2,500 members as of Sunday afternoon, has become more than just an efforts-oriented volunteer group but a community gathering place where people who share anxieties are met with uplifting messages.
“Some people have posted that they are really feeling at their wit’s end, that they’re worried and they’re scared and they don’t know what’s going to happen,” said Prangnell.
“They think the sky is falling, and it’s really nice because they have been able to get comforting words from people — total strangers.”
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The group has been so successful that moderators have had to ask people to delete posts for help because too many people have responded. One woman who needed help getting groceries had about six people anonymously drop off supplies, said Prangnell.
Although, he said too many kind actions isn’t a bad problem to have.
Many others around the city have taken to social media to offer their help with everything from dropping off groceries and sourcing cleaning supplies, to offering practical advice for small businesses and sharing COVID-19 protocol tips for condominiums.
One of those Samaritans is Kendra Neufeld, who spent the weekend picking up and dropping off supplies to people in need.
“It’s -20 C, I have a truck, I can pick up stuff and drop off stuff. I’m just helping where I can,” said Neufeld. “It’s important to spread love. To try and show people there is good out there still and we’re a strong community. We stick together.”
“A lot of it is like the flood — it’s about connecting the dots and keeping in contact with people in our communities,” said Van Rosendaal. “When it’s such a global issue, it tends to get overwhelming and it’s extra important we focus on supporting the people in our city.”
“It’s not about me or one person doing all these things, it’s about sharing these ideas of what people can do,” said Van Rosendaal. “Everyone feels helpless but everyone wants to help, and if everyone does a little bit and keeps tabs on their communities, we’ll be fine.”
“No one has ever become poor by giving.” ― Anne Frank
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