It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has hit seniors hard. For many, it has meant the loss of community and social supports as people isolate to protect their health. But a grant from the Alberta Retired Teachers Charitable Foundation (ARTCF) is helping Edmonton’s Operation Friendship Seniors Society (OFSS) build new community supports and maintain contact with their members during the pandemic.

As a non-profit organization, OFSS is dedicated to improving the lives of inner-city seniors through community outreach and affordable housing. Just before the pandemic arrived in full force, OFSS used a grant from ARTCF to purchase a pool table and coffee grinder for their community Drop-In Centre. While these additions may seem small to some, for Edmonton’s inner-city seniors, they have made a world of difference.

“We’re so thankful to ARTCF for the grant to purchase these items for our Drop-in Centre,” says Jimmy Morrison, OFSS’s Community Relations Supervisor. While use of the pool table was cut short due to necessary distancing practices of COVID-19, staff at the centre did get a sneak peek of the joy it was bringing to community members.

“Most of our seniors grew up playing pool and are quite good at it,” says Jimmy. “It’s fun to sit back and watch their games, and when we had groups in, there were always friendly challenges being made. It’s a great way for our community to socialize and enjoy some laughs, and we can’t wait until we’re able to re-open. Playing pool is a huge part of our Drop-In Centre’s appeal to our community.”

Though enjoyment of the pool table had to be paused, the coffee grinder has been getting a lot of use through the centre’s new lunch program. “Even though our centre is closed for now, we’re still able to hand out bag lunches, coffee, tea, and other essential items through our courtyard,” says Jimmy. “With our own coffee grinder, we’re able to get beans from the Edmonton Food Bank, grind them ourselves, and get more coffee out to seniors. A simple cup of coffee goes a long way to warm them up and get them through the day.

“We’re excited to have ARTCF’s support and are looking forward to getting back to normal soon. Please keep our seniors in your thoughts and prayers during these hard times.”

Organizations like OFSS are at the heart of ARTCF’s mission to support Alberta’s seniors. Consider donating to ARTCF today. No matter how big or small, your donation will make a huge difference in helping seniors secure appropriate housing, health services, and English-language education.