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38 | CAA MAGAZINE COVID-19 On March 17, the Bernard Betel Centre—a non-profit community centre in north Toronto that provides programs and services to more than 5,000 seniors—had to temporarily shut its doors because of COVID-19. But its Meals on Wheels program was considered essential, so staff banded together to cook meals from scratch in the centre's tiny kitchen. At the same time, demand for its meal delivery program more than doubled during stay-at-home restrictions. "A good portion of our seniors live below the poverty line," says Cheryl Besner, manager of volunteer services with the centre. "Food security is really an issue." When COVID-19 struck, some of its volunteer drivers—who also happen to be seniors—had to self-isolate because of their own health or that of their family members. "We began to lose our Meals on Wheels delivery team," Besner says. So she contacted CAA South Central Ontario, after hearing the association was looking to assist community agencies during the pandemic. Within a week, CAA drivers were on the job—allowing the centre to increase its number of routes and serve a much larger area. Between April 7 and June 10, CAA drivers made deliveries to 207 seniors on behalf of the centre. CAA "helped us over a hump," Besner says. For many of its seniors, this service was critical. "They're isolated, they can't go out, especially our seniors who are living in poverty—they can't get on a computer and order food online." It also served as a security check. "For some of these seniors, it's the only person they're going to see that day." The world came to an abrupt halt in mid-March when COVID-19 was declared a global health emergency. But, it also became a time when CAA Members, Associates and partners rallied for a common cause, making a difference in their communities during an unprecedented period—from delivering groceries and personal protective equipment ( PPE) to working with food banks and checking in on isolated Members. "At our core, our company is built on the values of making a difference in the community," says Kaitlynn Furse, director of corporate communications with CAA South Central Ontario. Since starting as an advocacy organization in 1903, "it's been in our DNA to be neighbourly and make sure people are taken care of." Here are just some of the many ways that CAA clubs and Associates answered the call to aid both Members and non-Members alike.

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