Making deliveries

Dragonfly Pond Society practicum student Tina Gamache (right) delivers care packages Thursday to member Michelle Berg and her grandson Dominic.

Providing food and sanitization supplies products for numerous local families struggling through the COVID-19 pandemic is a labour of love, says the boss at a local non-profit that has had to change the way it assists members..

The pandemic has made life difficult for almost everyone, but families with special-needs children are struggling more than ever before, says Tricia Hernes, program co-ordinator for the Dragonfly Pond Family Society.

The society usually holds no-cost monthly events for members, like bowling or visiting a petting zoo, but the pandemic put an end to that tradition.

“Every single in-person program we run has had to have the brakes put on, including our regular monthly family get-together for all members. We really had to shift gears,” said Hernes.

That included applying for grants to help provide everyday items members can use, which paid off twice.

First, Hernes was successful in accessing funding from the federal government’s Community Foundations of Canada program to provide sanitization products to families.

“Their goal was to get funding out to different charities running programs based on the needs brought up during this pandemic,” she said. “We submitted a grant to provide family care packages. The idea was to maintain sanitization during this period, but to many families, this involved a big extra cost.”

With the funding, Hernes put together dozens of baskets featuring hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, a refillable dispenser, disposable gloves and cloth masks made by a local mother. The sanitizer was provided by Maple Leaf Distillery in Penticton.

Second, she was able to tap into the Valley First Endowment Fund, a division of First West Credit Union, which initiated the Feed the Valley program in this region many years ago.

“Their grant was based on food security for our members,” said Hernes.

“We put together a family stock-up pantry program. We partnered with Save-On Foods and bought bulk amounts of various basic pantry items, offered to us at cost, including many items that have been hard to source such as flour and sugar that has been flying off the shelves.”

Both sets of packages were distributed this week, with assistance from Sprott Shaw College practicum student Tina Gamache.

The society has also been accepting donations from the general public and the response has been fantastic.

“Because of the amount of funds that have been generously given, we were able to give $150 gift cards to each of these families as well, so they are able to go out and purchase fresh produce, meat, dairy and other perishable items not in the pantry. The value of the pantry items was also about $150, so it’s a really nice thing to offer our members.”

Families have always been at the heart of Dragonfly. It was created by a small group of parents and professionals who worked with special-needs kids to provide supports for their parents and siblings, plus create a sense of community.

“There was a lot of support for children who had been given a certain diagnosis or medical challenges, but it was just that the family wasn’t being supported as a whole unit,” explained Herne.

Membership costs $10 per year, and requires a family have one child with a disability or complex care needs.

Hernes, who is the only employee with the Dragonfly Pond Family Society, urges any family seeking help to contact her. She can be reached by email at dragonfly@vip.net  or online at www.dragonflypondsociety.com. They also have a Facebook page.