Jennifer Van Es, activities and rentals coordinator at Beacon Community Services, joins Kenny Podmore, Sidney’s Town Crier, in holding up one of the T-shirts paying tribute to Dr. Bonnie Henry, with all proceeds from sales supporting Beacon Community Services, specifically its Vulnerable Seniors Program supporting vulnerable and often forgotten seniors in the region, who are fearful to leave their homes during the pandemic. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

Sidney’s Town Crier rings the bell for the food program serving vulnerable seniors

Bonny Henry-inspired T-shirts fund program to feeds seniors and breaks their isolation

A fundraising campaign for Saanich Peninsula seniors isolated by the COVID-19 pandemic has succeeded beyond the expectations of its organizer.

The campaign organized by Kenny Podmore — also known as Sidney’s Town Crier — along with Rhonda Todrick allows residents to purchase a T-shirt featuring a tribute to provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and frontline workers.

All of the proceeds support Beacon Community Services, specifically its Vulnerable Seniors Program supporting vulnerable and often forgotten seniors in the region, who live alone and who are fearful of leaving their houses during the pandemic.

Under the program, seniors receive a nutritious meal and a social visit in supporting one of the most vulnerable groups. The T-shirt itself features Henry’s public appeal to ‘Be Kind Be Calm Be Safe’ and a red heart paying tribute to frontline workers.

The campaign has raised enough money for about 1,000 meals with the sale of two T-shirts raising enough funds for three meals. The campaign is still going and Podmore says the new target aims for the 1,500 meals. “And there is every chance I am going to go beyond that,” he said.

Podmore said he did not realize how popular the campaign was going to be. “I think the reason for a lot of that is because 100 per cent of the funds are going to the [program],” he said.

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Podmore said the program does not just nourish the body of recipients, but also relieves them of their isolation.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has created a general feeling of isolation, seniors are especially vulnerable.

“They are very isolated and it’s not necessarily seniors that can’t afford food — it is just that they are isolated,” he said. “When this meal is delivered, the volunteer drivers are given enough time to have a social visit at the same time. So not only are they delivering meals, but they are doing a wellness check at the same time.”

More broadly, the campaign is also a thank-you note to Henry, said Podmore. “Of course, we are not over [COVID-19] contrary to what people say,” he said. “All of our frontline workers have also kept B.C. going during this terrible time. It’s nothing short of amazing.”

Podmore says Henry’s appeal lies in the manner in which she presents both good news and bad news. “She has got such a calm manner, very warming, and to me, she is B.C.’s Florence Nightingale without any shadow of a doubt,” he said.

“Her words are really inspirational.”

Overall, the campaign has been a success, with program participants reporting that they feel less isolated, said Podmore.

The T-shirts are unisex and available in black or white in sizes S to XXL, costing $25 each. Residents can place an order by emailing bkindbcalmbsafe@gmail.com. All orders are cash and pickup only.


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