Seniors Still Getting Around!

ECF grant enables Drive happiness to recruit 16 new volunteers and provide 150 car kits to ensure seniors can safely access essential services during pandemic.

In a time when many Edmonton seniors find their mobility limited, Drive Happiness and Edmonton Community Foundation (ECF) stepped up to ensure they can get to where they need to go.

Thousands of seniors in our city are unable to drive themselves to medical appointments or other important services. The COVID-19 pandemic has made it even more difficult for this group, since for-profit ridesharing and public transit have either limited their services or disappeared entirely.

“Due to COVID, driving services have shut down and almost all bus routes have scaled back,” says Liza Bouchard, executive director at Drive Happiness. “But for seniors who need to get to dialysis or chemotherapy treatment, they can’t just stop going.”

Drive Happiness has served the capital region for 23 years and focuses on providing transportation for seniors, specifically those with medical issues or low incomes. When the pandemic hit Alberta, Bouchard and her team knew they would have to rise to the challenge.

“With all the talk of the virus coming at the beginning of March, our organization knew we would have to continue providing transportation to essential medical services. And we had to figure out how to do this as safely as possible,” explains Bouchard.

For Drive Happiness, this meant adding new volunteers and training them. It also meant providing all drivers with car kits filled with wipes and sanitizer to ensure every ride was clean and safe. All this, however, also meant brand-new expenses.

Fortunately, Edmonton Community Foundation granted funds to Drive Happiness to cover these new costs. Since the onset of the pandemic, the organization has been able to add 16 new volunteers to its roster and built more than 150 car kits. This has allowed it to continue offering transportation services in a safe and socially responsible way.

“Just because there’s a pandemic unfolding, doesn’t mean the needs of daily life come to a stop,” Craig Stumpf-Allen, ECF’s Director of Grants and Community Engagement says. “Seniors need to be able to access essential services and this grant is ensuring that they can continue receiving the care and services they need.”

ECF seeded the COVID-19 Rapid Response Fund (RRF) on March 25 with $500,000 of its discretionary dollars. Since then, the RRF has exceeded a million dollars to allocate to Edmonton’s charitable organizations, thanks to contributions from donors and the wider community. To date, ECF has provided more than $1.3 million through various granting streams to support Edmonton’s charitable sector during the pandemic.

“Edmonton Community Foundation are gems. The amount they do for the community is truly overwhelming. We’re really proud to be what we would deem a partner to the Foundation. And we’re very grateful for the funding to help cover our expenses,” says Bouchard.

With some help from ECF, Bouchard and Drive Happiness have delivered on their goal to keep seniors safely on the move during the pandemic.

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