The Lillooet CRN: BC CRN’s Newest CRN Forms During a Pandemic

–Submitted by: Lynda Sampson, Literacy Coordinator, Lillooet Area Library Association; Kim North, Community Coordinator, Lillooet Community Connect Innovation HUB; and Joan Giannone, Lillooet Friendship Centre Society.

The Lillooet Regional Community Response Network (CRN) is BC CRN’s 82nd CRN in the province. Located on the unceded territory of the St’at’imc Nation, Lillooet is a small rural community in the interior of BC on the banks of the Fraser River. Three dynamic hosts have teamed up to work together towards a common goal and a shared vision to raise awareness of adult abuse, neglect, and self-neglect in the community. How did this come about?

The volunteer team behind the CAR Shop/Deliver Program. (Photo: Lillooet CRN)

Over the last several years, and especially during the COVID-19 shutdowns, it became obvious that services were necessary to support elders and seniors in our communities. Lillooet has only 52 senior housing spaces, and over 500 seniors living in the community. It was also noted that there was no coordinated location or service that provided information or support to seniors from all communities.

The not-for-profits came together in March 2020 to establish the Community Action Response Shop (CAR)/Deliver program to help vulnerable people during COVID-19, and began Senior Dialogue Sessions to reach out and understand the needs of elders and seniors in the community.

From this work, we learned many seniors live in their own homes, many times alone, and were experiencing social isolation and a lack of information that addressed their needs.

A team from Lillooet Volunteer Connect researched possible avenues to provide increased support, and through this research, we became aware of the CRN and Better At Home provincial programs. We reached out to the coordinators of those programs. We are grateful for the support given to us by Linda Martens, the BC CRN Regional Mentor for the Fraser Canyon, Cariboo, and Chilcotin.

Lillooet Volunteer Connect reached out to other community organizations to create partnerships to move forward with providing immediate services just before establishing the CRN. Some of this work included:

Youth deliver gift bags to seniors during pandemic lockdowns. (Photo: Lillooet CRN)
  • The Lillooet Seniors Centre Society (LSCS) providing space and programs for seniors to meet. During COVID, the Centre was closed and programs stopped. Volunteers worked hard to keep people connected and initiated a senior cyber project, started a phone line, and sourced funds for equipment to provide exercise and education programs in a COVID-safe way once the public health orders allowed controlled gatherings.
  • The Lillooet Friendship Centre Society – Engaging Communities for Positive Change (ECPC) providing education and engagement around collaborative efforts to reduce violence in the community, and to raise awareness of and reduce racism. ECPC has supported the partners in handing out information on elder abuse and packages to seniors at our local Farmers’ Market. The Lillooet Friendship Centre Society also operates the Lillooet Food Bank and a homeless shelter, and provides hot lunches two days per week to vulnerable people.
  • The Lillooet Learns – Community Connect Innovation HUB, which provides space and resources for cross-sector collaboration and oversees the CAR Shop/Deliver Program, facilitates the Senior Dialogue Sessions, accesses funds for partner services, and collaborates with LSCS on seniors’ programs.

The three partners, after working on various projects together over the past 18 months, came together in May 2021 as the CRN Coordinator Team for the region, and in September 2021, we signed partnership papers with BC CRN provincial organization.

The newly established CRN Coordinator Team is currently working together on the following:

  • Continuing the CAR Shop/Deliver program with a focus on supporting seniors living in their own homes.
  • Continuing the Senior Cyber program, where youth are helping seniors learn how to use their phones and/or tablets so they can stay connected.
    Tablets and laptops are also available for borrowing by seniors as needed.

    The “Youth to Senior and Elder Art Card Project” connects generations in the community. (Photo: Lillooet CRN)
  • Continuing the Senior Dialogue Sessions.
  • Continuing research around elder abuse, violence, and neglect.
  • Producing the Lillooet Area Elder Booklet that includes information on health, safety, financial, and elder abuse tips, recreational opportunities, and contacts for local/regional health services, local cleaners, and yard maintenance services.
  • Creating a gift bag for seniors to be distributed in December 2021 that includes the Lillooet Area Elder Booklet, resources from BC CRN and other organizations, art message cards made by youth from the local schools, a small gift, and an invitation to the upcoming community Seniors’ Expo.
  • Hosting a Seniors’ Expo in January 2022 to bring health providers, businesses, and non-profits together to set up information booths in a COVID-safe space. Seniors will be able to speak with and access services all in one place. The Expo will also include bagged lunches, speakers, and Senior Dialogue Sessions.
  • Facilitating BC CRN education programs in the community.

As the Lillooet Regional CRN team, we are excited to work together over the coming years to ensure elders and seniors in the community are supported.

(Header Photo: Volunteers in the CAR Shop/Deliver Program. Photo courtesy of the Lillooet CRN.)

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