WINDSOR, ONT. -- Residents and staff at the AMICA Riverside retirement home in Windsor had a fun afternoon thanks to a car parade.

What appeared to be an endless train of cars rolled through the entrance on Friday with passengers waving colourful signs, balloons, and scarves to staff waving back outside. Residents had noisemakers and pom poms as they watched the display from their balconies.

“It’s really hard. The closer you are, the farther it seems like they’re away,” said Greg Switzer, visiting his in-laws Ed and Leah Mazur.

Switzer says the separation has been difficult and while the drive-by is the next best thing – it’s a distant second to spending time in-person.

“Seven floors up, so, you want to be able to give them a hug and a kiss and that’s the hardest part,” said Switzer.

The parade proved to be an important morale booster for staff and residents at the facility which is one of five care homes currently suffering a COVID-19 outbreak according to the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit.

Signs held by staff read ‘we miss you’ and ‘we are strong’ while messages of ‘love’ and ‘stay safe and strong’ were carried in by the families of residents.

“It’s been hard emotionally and mentally,” said Lisa Rufo, the general manager at AMICA Riverside.

Rufo says staff have risen to the challenge brought on by COVID-19, putting in overtime hours to ensure the welfare of the residents. She adds, staff from all departments – including administration and marketing – have pitched in to help clean and carry out other tasks.

The show of support for staff and residents will provide an important boost as the restrictive measures as a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic continue in the weeks and potentially months to come.

One reunion on Friday saw Renate Dulmage share a moment with her 93-year-old mother, diagnosed with COVID-19, who is set to celebrate a birthday at the end of May.

“Right now she’s still okay, but we don’t know what the future holds,” said Dulmage.

With her mother on her balcony flanked by two support workers, Dulmage waved from the pavement, holding signs thanking AMICA and another which read ‘we love you’ in German.

“We would visit all the time and it would just be really difficult not being able to see her or give her a hug or a big kiss,” said Greg Dulmage, who added the couple came down from Chatham and wouldn’t miss the parade for anything.

That simple wave led to tears.

“It was great,” said Renate Dulmage. “She finally got it that we were down here and started to wave and that was very emotional.”

The ordeal has been taxing on residents according to Ruffo, who adds have been unable to leave for the past month.

“For our population here it’s been very scary,” said Rufo. “They’re used to getting out and walking, enjoying the beautiful weather, the paths – they’re very, very active so, for them to be stuck in their rooms this long has been very, very difficult.”