Though vaccines are on the horizon, the pandemic isn’t over. As many communities continue to need supports to face challenges associated with COVID-19, we recently extended our COVID Community Roots Program into 2021.

In partnership with the Alberta Recreation and Parks Association, our program offers grants up to $5,000 to grassroots, community-led initiatives in rural and remote locations to help navigate COVID-19. Focusing in areas outside of Edmonton and Calgary, the program is designed to support social, mental, emotional and physical well-being programs and services for vulnerable populations.

In 2020, we received 156 application and awarded a total of $195,000 to 45 projects in 38 different communities across Alberta, including

  • $81,000 to 19 organizations in southern Alberta,
  • $66,900 to 15 organizations in northern Alberta, and
  • $45,600 to 11 organizations in central Alberta.

Despite the crisis created by the pandemic, communities have supported each other. Neighbours reached out to one another and built programs that served people when they needed it most. Programs connected seniors when they felt most isolated. Newcomers, refugees and individuals with disabilities received access to important services, and families and youth were supported to stay healthy and active when gyms, summer camps and playgrounds were shut down. This is what community means to Albertans, and this what community means to Alberta Blue Cross®.

Read on to learn more about some of these projects and visit our webpage for a complete listing of funded projects.  

Southern Alberta

From Medicine Hat and Drumheller to Canmore and Lethbridge, the COVID Community Roots Program provided $81,000 to support 19 organizations across southern Alberta.

Preventing isolation for seniors

The Longview A R C Society runs a popular outreach program for isolated seniors called GO ME. Classes are free to attend and allow participants to enjoy time with others in their neighbourhood. Classes are typically held in the Longview Community Hall or the local park, but the society was forced to move the classes online due to COVID-19 restrictions. Awarded funds were used to purchase a Bluetooth headset and portable speakers to help program participants hear better. Funding was also used to help provide prepackaged snacks to program participants and purchase cleaning supplies. While the society’s fitness classes have focused on tai chi and yoga for seniors, they also offer cooking classes.

“The Alberta Blue Cross COVID community grant has given us the ability to offer programming online no matter what happens in terms of a lockdown. We even can live stream in the middle of the park via a portable hotspot. I am extremely grateful for both Alberta Blue Cross and the Alberta Recreation and Parks Association and appreciate the ongoing support.”

– Longview A R C Society and GO ME program representative

Supporting physical well-being

When the pandemic hit, the town of Banff was forced to close its recreation centre, which provides indoor and outdoor fitness and dance programs, led by certified instructors, to seniors free of charge. Recreation plays a vital role in the lives of the people within their community—it allows them to stay physically active and mentally stable and provides opportunities for social connection—so funds were used to continue their programs in the summer and fall under the new restrictions. Local seniors and older adults, especially those who had been isolated since March, greatly appreciated the ability to maintain their physical activity and connect with their community again in a safe environment.

“I’d like to express my sincere appreciation to Kerri Dance and the town of Banff, as well the Alberta Blue Cross COVID Community Roots Program grant that allowed all the great classes to occur over the summer and fall in Banff. I’ve attended a variety of classes, including fitness, yoga, dance conditioning and Pilates, and heard nothing but positive comments from all the other participants. For many of us, particularly seniors like myself, this is the primary way we stay fit and connected with others. While I’m very apprehensive about attending indoor events, the way these classes are organized made me feel safe and comfortable.”

– Amanda Arbuckle, Banff resident

Northern Alberta

From Little Red River and Whitecourt to Grande Prairie and Slave Lake, the COVID Community Roots Program provided $66,900 to support 15 organizations across northern Alberta.

Supporting social well-being

The Fort McKay First Nation project supported social well-being among community adults. With travel not recommended and many social events shut down, community members in Fort McKay decided to come together to fight against isolation for adults during this difficult time. Fort McKay First Nation runs programs for youth and adults throughout the year but were forced to stop them in February due to the pandemic. To resume the program and camps again, the community restructured the programs to be run by local community members instead of outside organizations to reduce travel and decrease the potential spread of COVID-19. Funding was used to buy supplies and equipment to help run the programs and ensure they complied with COVID-19 safety measures. The programs also created casual jobs for people within the community.

“It made a big difference. We haven’t had any adult programs since February 2020. With the funding, we planned weekly workshops for paint nights, beading, crochet, mala bracelets, yoga, fitness classes and so on. Participants say the programs make them feel some sense of ‘normal’ and enjoy being able to socialize with other adults and converse on topics other than COVID.”

– Fort McKay First Nations representative

Continuing services safely

The 4 Wings Military Family Resource Centre Society in Cold Lake is a community staple. As a non-profit organization serving military families and other residents of the Cold Lake area, it’s often a place people go in times of need. At the time that people most needed the society’s services, they were required to close their doors because of the pandemic.

The society evaluated what they would need to reopen their doors to the community and applied for funding through our program. The funding they received was used to purchase sanitation products and plastic chairs to repurpose and reconfigure the centre, which allowed them to safely begin serving the community again under Alberta Health guidelines.

“We were able to make changes in our program delivery in response to COVID safety measures. The grant allowed us to continue serving the public through our programs, and we’re able to provide a safe space for our participants to access our services and attend workshops and events.”

– 4 Wing Military Family Resource Centre Society representative

Central Alberta

From Thorsby and Lloydminster to Devon and Edson, the COVID Community Roots Program provided $45,600 to support 11 organizations in central Alberta.

Supporting Indigenous communities

The Louis Bull Tribe in Wetaskiwin has a vision to rebuild a strong sense of community within their community, which has been lost to colonization, substance abuse, poverty, lack of education, mass media and access to urban centres. The tribe decided to reunite its citizens by rebuilding the community rodeo event, which was held by the tribe in the 70s and 80s and brought together Indigenous and non-Indigenous cowboys and cowgirls to showcase their talent and compete for prestigious prizes.

The Louis Bull Tribe used the funds they received to purchase much needed equipment, including tack and safety gear, which is shared between young participants. This project creates free recreation and entertainment for tribe citizens, while providing an opportunity for elders to pass along knowledge and skills to their youth. The rodeo will be an ongoing program that the tribe hopes to offer for many years to come.

“Thank you, Alberta Blue Cross, for the funds that assisted us in making our rodeo event a reality.”

– Louis Bull Tribe representative

Enhancing facilities for safety

The Boys and Girls Club of Leduc is proud to offer programs and provide a space where children and youth can experience new opportunities, overcome barriers, build positive relationships and develop confidence and skills for life. Their services include after-school programs, summer camps and other events, and are the only affordable option for low-income and high-risk families seeking programming and care for their children and youth.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced the club to close their doors and cease programs, which left many families without child-care alternatives. Funds received allowed them to reopen and continue their services by renovating and retrofitting the club with acrylic barriers, social distancing markers, signage and sanitation stations to keep child and youth members, their families and staff safe.

“Thank you for the opportunity to keep our community connected through such an uncertain time. We appreciate every penny we received and hope the program continues in 2021.”

– Leduc County Boys and Girls Club representative

Are you a community in need of support during COVID-19?

If your rural or remote community has a grassroots initiative—created for the community by community members—that needs funding support to successfully operate during these challenging times, apply for our COVID Community Roots Program.

Eligible organizations include non-profits, charities, municipalities and First Nations communities or Métis Settlements. Unregistered organizations can apply with a sponsor organization who can attest to their credibility in the community. Eligible initiatives must address the mental, physical, social or emotional well-being of those most affected by COVID-19. To learn more about eligible initiatives and expenses and the application process, please visit our webpage.

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