Nova Scotia

Rural delivery proves resiliency of Cape Breton seniors

At the start of the pandemic, Victoria County launched a delivery service for older residents who feared potential COVID-19 exposure.

'One thing I've learned ... is that seniors in remote, rural Nova Scotia know how to keep a pantry stocked'

Victoria County launched a delivery service at the start of the pandemic that relies on volunteers from local fire departments. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Cape Breton's rural communities are finding ways to help seniors get their everyday essentials.

At the start of the pandemic, Victoria County launched a delivery service for older residents who feared potential COVID-19 exposure.

"It was a rather slow uptake at the beginning," said Cassandra Yonder, the municipality's senior safety officer.

"A lot of the need is really being met by friends and neighbours and community members. And so, putting this program in place was kind of a way of actually just reinforcing what was already happening." 

Yonder asked local fire departments to recruit volunteers who could drop off things such as groceries and prescriptions.

The program was launched after Victoria County received $10,000 from the Nova Scotia Department of Seniors for COVID spending. A portion of the money was donated to fire stations for things such as fuel and personal protective supplies. 

'Resiliency of our seniors'

Although many seniors living in Victoria County have few options for home delivery, Yonder said the response to the program was modest. 

In fact, some departments did not receive any calls, while the Baddeck volunteers made more than 100 deliveries. 

Yonder is the senior safety co-ordinator for Victoria County, where a grocery delivery has been launched. (Submitted by Cassandra Yonder)

Yonder said the quiet response in some communities can be attributed to many seniors keeping well-stocked supplies of canned or non-perishable items. 

"What's often overlooked is actually the resiliency of our seniors," said Yonder. "And one thing I've learned over this pandemic is that seniors in remote, rural Nova Scotia know how to keep a pantry stocked."

Shane MacFarlane, a member of the Baddeck volunteer fire department, said he's made several supply runs for seniors while taking necessary precautions.  

MacFarlane said some residents aren't comfortable leaving their homes while COVID numbers are on the rise. 

"They certainly do feel uneasy, there's no doubt about that," MacFarlane said. 

Volunteers standing by

Kyle Rambeau, chief of the Cabot volunteer fire department in Cape North, said seniors should call a station representative to arrange pickup.

Once an order is ready at a local grocery store, volunteers will bring bags to a senior's doorstep. 

"We signed up because we want to help our community," said Rambeau. "Seniors are a very important part of our community and we have to try to keep them safe."

Rambeau says the Cabot volunteer fire department hasn't had many calls from seniors for deliveries, but they are always willing to help. (Submitted by Kyle Rambeau)

Rambeau said part of the reason the department has had so few calls is because few people know the service exists. 

Yonder said the program will continue as long as there are volunteers.

"The real value of the program is not necessarily the deliveries that are done, but the fact that our seniors here in Victoria County know that the fire departments ... are willing to be there for them in this way, and in a myriad of ways, is pretty spectacular," Yonder said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Erin Pottie

Reporter

Erin Pottie is a CBC reporter based in Sydney. She has been covering local news in Cape Breton for 15 years. Story ideas welcome at erin.pottie@cbc.ca.

now