Sask. non-profits struggling, yet providing, during COVID-19 pandemic

A Regina non-profit has seen an increase in donations while a Saskatoon group had to cancel its only fundraiser of the year.

Carmichael Outreach says online donations have increased, Sanctum Care Group cancels only fundraiser

The Sanctum Care Group offers a group home called Sanctum 1.5. It houses pregnant women infected with HIV in Saskatoon. (Bridget Yard/CBC News)

Non-profits in Saskatchewan are changing how they operate during COVID-19.

The pandemic has put some of them in a tough financial situation. For others, it has highlighted community support. 

The Sanctum Care Group, based in Saskatoon, operates an HIV hospice centre and transitional care homes. Katelyn Roberts, the executive director, said Sanctum is lucky to still operate its programs, despite some restrictions to new referrals and visitors.

The biggest hurdle it has faced was having to cancel its only fundraiser, Sanctum Survivor, she said. 

"It's pretty devastating," Roberts said. "It raises about $200,000. The money that we raised through Sanctum Survivor is really used to fund a lot of our key programming that isn't funded by the government."

We're now looking at projecting our budget and how we're going to try and make things work and hopefully that won't include having to cut some of our critical programming.- Katelyn Roberts, executive director of Sanctum Care Group

The group has also been hit by more financial stress during the pandemic. It needs more disinfectants, has hired replacement staff for those who had to self-isolate and is preparing nursing students to take over programming if a COVID-19 outbreak forced staff to isolate for 14 days. 

"We're now looking at projecting our budget and how we're going to try and make things work and hopefully that won't include having to cut some of our critical programming," she said. "At this time, it's certainly unknown."

Katelyn Roberts is the executive director for the Sanctum Care Group in Saskatoon. (Submitted by Katelyn Roberts)

Roberts hopes that in the future Sanctum can continue to be creative. She also wants people to understand not everyone has a home to self-isolate in. 

"This is hard on everyone even in the best of circumstances," she said. "When you are somebody who has nothing and is struggling to access food and shelter and you put mental illness and addiction on top of that it becomes almost an insurmountable barrier to survival."

Community support 'absolutely incredible' for Carmichael Outreach

Rochelle Berenyi said it's impossible to describe how the pandemic has changed Carmichael Outreach's work. 

"We have to balance the risks of the COVID-19 virus with the benefits that our services provide the community and that's been quite difficult."

Carmichael's outreach centre and boutique were closed to the public in March. It still has a meal service they are able to run from their kitchen, with people lining up outside the door for takeaway meals.

Volunteers move boxes into the latest Carmichel Outreach location on 11th Avenue in Regina. (Heidi Atter/CBC)

Since the pandemic started, Carmichael has seen a spike in online donations from people wanting to help, Berenyi said.

"It's been absolutely incredible," she said. "We've also seen such a huge amount of help from the community in ways of meals — people preparing meals offsite to donate that we are able to then hand out which is extremely helpful."

Berenyi said Carmichael found out before the pandemic that its housing program funding was partially cut. A housing support worker was going to be let go. Now, because of the continued donations, the organization can keep the worker and continue providing food.

Just that lack of family, that lack of social interaction, it's very difficult.- Rochelle Berenyi,  director of development at Carmichael Outreach

Carmichael differs from the Sanctum Care Group because it doesn't have a shelter. Instead, it's a community hub where people can get food or help finding housing.

Berenyi said the effects are still going to be felt deeply by everyone.

"That lack of family, that lack of social interaction, it's very difficult," Berenyi said. "We're social creatures — and not being able to have that regular interaction, that kind of belonging, that I think is going to have a very huge impact on a lot of people."

Rochelle Berenyi is the director of development with Carmichael Outreach. (Heidi Atter/CBC)

Carmichael is currently checking in on individuals and connecting them to mental health resources. Anyone wanting to support it can donate on the website or prepare meals at home in freezer bags or containers to drop off. 

Berenyi said she hopes the increased support non-profits are seeing continues into the future. 

Moose Jaw asking fundees to consider operating changes to save money

Meanwhile, Moose Jaw is bringing financial issues to the forefront by analyzing the savings and changes needed to cope with the pandemic. 

At a city council meeting on Monday, April 13, councillors voted to have the city manager ask third-parties funded by the city to look for savings.

The Wakamow Valley Authority had to close all campgrounds and rental sites due to the coronavirus pandemic. (Corey Atkinson/CBC)

The city said in a statement that many organizations had already brought forward plans for consideration.

"With having no revenue and looking at other expenses, [we're] trying to reduce everything that we possibly can," Todd Johnson, general manager for Wakamow Valley in Moose Jaw.

The 500-acre park has seen an increase in people walking as a means of getting outside while still following physical distancing.

"It has been busier because we're right in being an urban park right in the middle of the city and I think that people just come to the park — really get back to nature," Johnson said.

The Wakamow Valley is a popular natural space and park for Moose Jaw residents. (Corey Atkinson/Submitted to CBC)

The park had to close its campground and rental facilities in March, so the funds coming in from that have stopped, Johnson said. A loss of funding from the city would be a major hit, he said.

Johnson said the city has been in contact since the beginning and very helpful in getting questions answered and sharing information. 

"They've been so supportive," he said. "So I look for that same relationship just to continue."


Heidi Atter


Heidi Atter is a journalist working in Regina. She started with CBC Saskatchewan after a successful internship and has a passion for character-driven stories. Heidi has worked as a reporter, web writer, associate producer and show director so far, and has worked in Edmonton, at the Wainwright military base, and in Adazi, Latvia. Story ideas? Email


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