The Equality Project in Cache Creek was hit with a double whammy — flood evacuation and COVID-19 — earlier this year, but chairperson and public relations officer Joan Henderson says that the Stage Road clubhouse’s doors are once again open and most services have resumed.
The Project is open Monday through Wednesday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., for hot lunches, socializing, and other services, but had to close for five days this spring when the building was included in an Evacuation Order because of the threat of flooding.
“It really left us as a board fairly sad inside, because we were not being able to meet people’s needs,” says Henderson. “We were trying to figure out how to deliver food to people, but COVID-19 restrictions were in place, and we couldn’t go back to the clubhouse.”
Once back at the clubhouse, volunteers were again able to provide lunches, although the hours were limited to 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., and instead of sit-down meals people picked up take-out meals at the door. That continued until mid-June, when the clubhouse was able to re-open its doors and welcome guests.
“The tables are distanced, and we have masks and sanitizer at the door. We got some grant money from the Red Cross for two janitors, so we have someone at the door to greet people and take names, make sure everything is sanitized after people leave, clean the washrooms fairly often, wipe down common touch points, and keep the rules in place. We’re still figuring out how to do things.”
While people using the clubhouse do not have to wear masks, they are available at the door for anyone who wants one. “When physical distancing isn’t possible we very much recommend they wear one, but we try to do distancing, although we have one coffee table who have formed a bubble, so they sit together.
“The Interior Savings Community Relief Fund paid for the purchase of masks, shields, and sanitizer. Those supplies go quite quickly.”
She says that during the period when it was take-out meals only, the numbers dropped from about 35 people each day to 25. “The people who came seemed fairly edgy. I know it was hard on a lot of them emotionally. We felt that there was a lot of fear of the unknown.
“And people missed socializing a lot. Some of the members could hardly wait when we started saying ‘We might be able to open next week.’ One fellow heard that and came and was waiting for us when we got there the following Monday at 9 a.m. People really emotionally need that community.”
She says that numbers are still a bit down. “For some reason there are a few who still hesitate. Some people have compromised immunity, and if they have health reasons it’s smarter to stay away. We still have 25 to 30 people coming every day.”
The Essentials Room, which provides clothing, household items, and other necessities, was closed while it was take-out meals only, but reopened when the clubhouse did in mid-June. However, the hours have changed, and it is only open from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., partly for cleaning and partly because there are not enough volunteers at the moment. “We’re going to keep it that way for the time being.”
In addition to the additional staff and PPE, The Equality Project recently received grant funding that has enabled them to purchase new commercial refrigeration and freezer units and a commercial dishwasher. They are also able to purchase a new hot food serving table, and are looking for one that will suit their needs.
“Ours needs a splash guard and they’re hard to find, because everyone is screaming for them. Right now we’re serving to the table, because that’s what WorkSafe has recommended.”
The refrigerator, freezers, and dishwasher came courtesy of funding from Highland Valley Teck. “They’re all commercial standard to replace our old ones, which used a lot of electricity. It was also hard trying to dig deep into the old chest freezers, and these are stand-up freezers, which are much more efficient. We had applied for the funding before COVID-19, so it didn’t come because of that, but it’s very helpful.”
The clubhouse also has two new high speed desktop computers which members can use, courtesy of Interior Savings.
“People come in who are applying for CERB, or who are looking for work, or need something printed out. Our old computers were very old or had quit working, so we did need to have them replaced so that they were available for members to use.”
The shelving in the Essentials Room has recently been upgraded, and there is also a small shop where members can purchase items.
“We take apart a package of toilet paper, and take basic things like shampoo and conditioner, coffee and tea, and package them in smaller containers. People often don’t have room for large containers or the space to be able to buy in bulk, so we find it’s quite beneficial to people. They give us a small amount of money for what they can buy, but if someone really needs it and doesn’t have the money they still get it.”
Henderson says that The Equality Project has recently been approved to be part of a Food Rescue program, which will start in September. “We will be able to get meat and produce; all kinds of foods that will be available to be given away and to be used to cook our meals.
“We’ll probably be putting a call out to people in Cache Creek and Ashcroft who are housebound, or too ill to leave their homes, to see if they have needs where maybe someone can bring them some things. We’re looking at doing something like that, because we’d like to make sure the food gets into the hands of the people who need it most. If people are really in need they should contact us.”
None of these services could happen without volunteers, and Henderson says they are always happy to welcome new people who are able to help out. The Equality Project is looking for people who are able to offer assistance in the Essentials Room, with administrative help, or with the Food Rescue program when it starts. Anyone interested in learning more about volunteering, or who needs assistance, can call (250) 457-6485 or email email@example.com.