South Surrey resident Shelley Jankola was to deliver gloves and homemade hand sanitizer to a woman who asked for help through a Facebook group Jankola formed to connect those wanting help during the COVID-19 pandemic with those who can lend a hand. Within four days, nearly 400 had joined. (Tracy Holmes photo)

White Rock/South Surrey Facebook COVID-19 group aims to connect helpers with those in need

‘There are a lot of loving and kind people out there with good intent’

As news and updates on COVID-19 arrive in increasing frequency, an effort to ease the stress and strain of the pandemic on Semiahmoo Peninsula residents is gaining steam.

READ MORE: Live updates: COVID-19 pandemic in Surrey, White Rock and beyond

Shelley Jankola said she came up with the idea of a Facebook group that would connect those needing help during the crisis with those who are willing to lend a hand.

She didn’t imagine the response: membership almost doubled overnight Tuesday, to 374 from 205, after word of it was shared on television news.

“There seems to be a need,” she said Wednesday from her South Surrey home. “It was immediate that people started posting with offers to help, and needs.

“It actually grew a lot faster than I thought.”

Jankola said the idea to create the group – COVID Isolation Assistance-White Rock/South Surrey – came around the same time that concerns around the virus started amping up in B.C. and across Canada, as more and more cases were reported confirmed and more and more measures to prevent the spread of the illness were announced.

“It just felt like the pin dropped,” the mother of three said. “Like, wow, this is huge. I remember feeling overwhelmed. I went for a long walk in the forest and just spent a lot of time in thought and prayer. I knew, or recognized… there’s going to be needs that would come up.”

An introduction describes the page as “a place for connection of those who might be shut in by COVID-19 and those who can help with errands and such.”

“Post below if you are willing to volunteer, either running for food or supplies to those in isolation, or just helping make connection.”

Requests so far have ranged from help getting groceries and an ask for someone to drop off gloves and sanitizer, to an appeal for more people who can deliver meals to shut-ins. Jankola said she planned to take care of the gloves-and-sanitizer request – made by a pregnant member – on Wednesday.

Jankola said while members will see an occasional COVID-19 news story shared to the page, she is trying to keep it a place of positivity; sharing inspiring stories and even injecting humour where possible – “anything to help us keep our hope.”

One example of the latter was a challenge for members to share what their pets are up to, but in posting, to refer to them as “co-workers.”

She said the group could also expand to include online book clubs and discussion forums, “just how to keep our sanity and keep entertained and keep connected right now.”

“It’s been heartening for me, just to see the response to the group. It tells me there are a lot of loving and kind people out there with good intent.”

The idea is catching on, she added, noting she’s heard interest from people in Langley and Burnaby.

As well, a similar group has formed in Ridge Meadows, she said. She encouraged others who want to provide a similar platform.

• Other efforts to help include an offer by local catering company Candlelight Cuisine to provide free delivery to community members who are immune-compromised or elderly; and, South Surrey-White Rock MP Kerry-Lynne Findlay and her staff are available to run errands for seniors, people with compromised immune systems and those who are under quarantine because they recently returned to Canada (call 604-542-9495, email kerry-lynne.findlay@parl.gc.ca).



tholmes@peacearchnews.com

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A Facebook group launched on the weekend to connect those wanting help during the COVID-19 pandemic with those who can lend a hand. (Tracy Holmes photo)

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