When Alex and Barbara Kosny returned to Wilberforce March 30 after staying in Florida over the winter, they were forced into unusual circumstances.

As with all returning travellers, they had to keep themselves in isolation for two weeks due to COVID-19, meaning they could not leave the house. But they were not left in the lurch for long, as neighbours and volunteers with the Central Food Network ensured they could get the supplies they needed.

“It was a very, very big help,” Alex Kosny said. “When we sent a list of our order to Foodland, very next day volunteers came. How can it be? I am very, very happy that happened and very surprised.”

National Volunteer Week is April 19-25 and organizations across the County are showing their appreciation as volunteers continue helping even during a global pandemic.

Volunteers from groups such as the Rotary Club of Haliburton, the Central Food Network and the newly formed Neighbours Helping Neighbours are delivering groceries. SIRCH and Rotaract Haliburton Highlands are collecting cloth masks for use, woven by volunteer sewers.

Haliburton Highlands Health Services (HHHS) vice president of community programs Stephanie MacLaren said when the pandemic broke out, volunteers emerged quickly.

“Haliburton County is an embarrassment of riches when it comes to community spirit and volunteer support,” MacLaren said. “Our phones lit up with many people wanting to know how they could help.”

She said community support services has a dedicated volunteer group, which have continued to help drive people to medical appointments, deliver Meals on Wheels and make friendly visits by telephone or virtually. She added many people stepped forward who have not volunteered with HHHS in the past.

“There are a lot of people stepping up to organize responses – whether it is doing fitness classes for seniors over the internet, running errands, reaching out to neighbours. It is really impressive how we as a community have responded,” MacLaren said.

Other organizations are also honouring volunteers, including the many who help year-round. The Township of Minden Hills, which usually holds a recognition event for the week, put out a release thanking its volunteers.

“Your continued commitment and enthusiasm in helping develop our community is greatly appreciated. Minden Hills wouldn’t be the wonderful place it is without all of you,” the township said. “To all those who have been volunteering or assisting others in various ways during this uncertain time, we want to say thank you.”

However, some regular volunteers in the vulnerable population have taken a step back due to COVID-19, something MacLaren said HHHS is fully supportive of. She said she cannot predict what the “new normal” will look like moving forward during the pandemic but expects volunteers will continue to come forward.

“What is truly evident throughout all of this, is that the spirit of volunteerism and the calling to be of service to the health and well-being of the community is alive and well in Haliburton County.”

Correction: The print version of this story incorrectly identified the Central Food Network as the Central East Food Network. The Highlander apologizes for the error.

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