WINDSOR, ONT. -- The coronavirus pandemic is taking a big toll on Windsor-Essex charities, according to a recent survey completed by the WindsorEssex Community Foundation.

“Many of them had to lay off staff, or work remotely. That has a ripple effect,” says Lisa Kulody, WECF executive director.

Out of the 48 charities in the region that completed the survey, 74.51 per cent say community needs are growing. However, donation and monetary supports are down as 64.58 per cent of charities say they are in need of financial assistance.

Only 18.75 per cent of local charities are currently still open to the public or fully operational.

“They’re being very nimble,” says Kulody. “They had to immediately look into new ways of providing services.”

W/E Cares COVID-19

One of the few charities that are still operating in the region is the Salvation Army. Their Centre for Hope is open 24/7 and offers emergency shelter, community meals, mental and spiritual support.

“We believe that everything we’re currently doing is absolutely essential for the community that we serve,” says Major Paul Rideout with the Salvation Army.

The centre has re-arranged all their shelter beds to be six-feet apart and is taking extra precautions to ensure the safety of staff and guests. With the added precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the shelter is now facing a shortage of workers.

“Probably the most important position that we have is our cleaners. Right now we’re down to one cleaner,” says Rideout. “Ideally we would want someone 24 hours a day.”

Additional cooks to assist with their daily meal program are also an urgent need.

The South-Essex Community Council has programs tailored to all demographics in their region. They’ve had to cancel all their group setting and in-person programs.

“All our classes, after school kids and newcomers program, women’s group and our adult day programs, all those things we had to cancel,” says Carolyn Warkentin, South-Essex Community Council executive director.

Despite the cancellations, the council has seen an increase in need for food security, with more residents needing financial help for security.

“The other thing we are seeing that we are seeing an uptake in seniors wanting reassurance calls. So a daily call, to check in to ask how are you doing and how are you feeling,” says Warkentin.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, WECF has launched an emergency fund. Contributions will support local charities across Windsor Essex providing front line services to vulnerable populations who have been negatively impacted by the pandemic.