Creating a Virtual Community During COVID-19

ECF grant enables more than 460 individuals and families to access group programming and individual support groups at the Cerebral Palsy Association of Alberta

People living with disabilities are often isolated from their communities in the best of times, which makes life during a pandemic even harder.

Differently-abled people face many challenges including accessing equitable employment, quality care and trying to meet their basic needs. Self-isolation has made that even more difficult, which is why the Cerebral Palsy Association of Alberta (CPAA) has made every effort to create inclusive online programming to meet its clients’ needs.

“Every day is a constant struggle,” says Kimberly Mayer, the client and community manager for the CPAA.

COVID-19 created an air of uncertainty for nonprofit organizations such as the CPAA, which are dedicated to supporting and enriching the lives of those living with cerebral palsy and other disabilities.
The association provides supports that are inclusive, holistic, and person-centric. A wide range of programming is available for all ages, including yoga, computer abilities, art, music, and more.

Ever since the pandemic hit, the association had to restructure its programming to comply with social-distancing rules. Unfortunately, all in-person programming and events had to be cancelled for the safety of clients and staff.

“COVID has, like a lot of nonprofit organizations, really affected our ability to raise funds,” says Mayer. “We had to shut things down and close doors, so that’s really put a huge hamper on what we’ve been able to do financially.”

With the help of Edmonton Community Foundation (ECF), the CPAA was able to transition its programming to online platforms. The $10,000 grant allowed the CPAA to go virtual, allowing clients to participate in group programming and individual-support groups.

The priority is making sure that those who need support receive it, whether it be by talking with others who know what they’re going through or just a phone call asking if they’re alright.

“Our community has been able to come together to participate in the programs that they were enjoying prior to COVID, but also to be able to connect with each other so that social isolation isn’t so devastating,” says Mayer.

The CPAA has seen a positive reaction to the virtual programming, with 42 people enrolled in their support groups and recreation programs. Going digital has allowed the association to reach out to more than 460 individuals and families, which Mayer notes is a huge impact. The association has also been working to get Wi-Fi at a reduced cost for individuals who don’t have access to those resources.

“The restrictions on in-person services have uncovered that many non-profits don’t have the hardware and software they need to respond,” says Craig Stumpf-Allen, ECF’s director of grants and community engagement. Like many organizations, the CPAA needed assistance to get programming online, so it could serve clients who already face isolation in the best of times.

On March 19, ECF began strategically allocating funding to support the city’s charitable sector through the unfolding pandemic. ECF is working with funders and networks of charity partners to allocate resources where they are needed most.

“Without the generous contributions of the Edmonton Community Foundation, we wouldn’t have had the ability to connect with our community, so thank you,” says Mayer.

Learn more about ECF’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic here.