Businesses, groups, residents are serving, assisting residents during COVID-19 pandemic
Jesse Bonello - Staff Writer
Businesses, organizations, and community groups in Sioux Lookout are doing whatever it takes to serve the community, ensuring that all residents have the opportunity to access essential supplies during the COVID-19 pandemic.
With the implementation of social distancing and self-isolation, local stores such as Giant Tiger, Fresh Market Foods, and Coley’s Convenience in Hudson have been working to follow Northwestern Health Unit (NWHU) and Health Canada guidelines as they continue to serve the community. They have also tweaked their store hours, imposed product limitations, and adjusted some of their services to provide all residents with access to supplies and products.
“We’re following all of the Northwestern Health Unit and Health Canada guidelines, insuring that we’re keeping with their policies and guidelines on cleanliness. In addition to that, we’re doing extra things like we’re sanitizing carts on a regular basis, sanitizing tills, and any high-contact areas in the store,” said Todd Nadon, Fresh Market Foods Owner.
“I took all my production staff and chopped them to night shifts and day shifts so we don’t have so much of our staff here in close proximity with each other or with our customers. You’ll find that there’s less people in the store, but it doesn’t mean there’s less things getting done.
“So what we’ve done is dropped all of our service fees for shopping and shipping, so it would just be like coming into the store and shopping yourself. We’ll pack it up and we’ll ship it to you, so that’s for anybody who’s vulnerable, so generally our seniors or anybody who’s in isolation. Every Tuesday between six and eight in the morning we have shopper’s hours for people that are vulnerable.
“The biggest thing we can get out there is there has been an interruption in the supply food line, but there isn’t a shortage of food. It’s just taking time to get back on our shelves, so we appreciate everybody’s support and we appreciate all the thank yous from the community as we try to get this place back up and running in full operation… We want to make sure that everybody gets a chance to get access to items that have been shorted for quite a while,” Nadon explained.
“Part of it is, obviously, extra sanitization. I think you see that across the board with every business that does still remain open. We’ve implemented, to help with our social distancing, guidelines that we have on our floors that outlines what that means for customers through tape, arrows, and signage in order to help keep the community safe. At the same time, as much as we would like to help everybody, we have to impose some limits on commodities that everybody is looking for right now like toilet paper and water. In order for us to be able to serve as many people as possible, that’s some of things that we’re doing so everybody has the opportunity to get those essentials that they need,” said Tammy Johnson, Giant Tiger Store Manager.
“We are starting restricted hours tomorrow (March 21), so the store is only open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday hours remain the same,” said Johnson.
“We’ve become a drive-through walk-up (store). We are really fortunate in our set up here that we have a window that faces our main road here in Hudson. That window is just big enough, and the bars are just wide enough apart, to fit a bag of chips and a two-litre pop through, so we’re serving through the window,” said Nicole Rose, Coley’s Convenience Owner.
“Our store is very small. It’s a converted office, so it’s probably eight-by-ten… I noticed that when there was more than one person in the store it got crowded, so I felt a responsibility to keep our residents here in Hudson and Lac Seul safer. I decided that we would start service through the window.
“Right now, our hours are going to be seven days a week from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.,” said Rose.
All three businesses praised their staff for their dedication during the COVID-19 pandemic, and they praised the community for their kindness and support while shopping.
“I think the biggest thing for us is the community has been really kind, they’ve been really good to our workers, and they’ve just been super supportive. As a business, we’re so thankful to the community for that… I’m so proud of my staff. They’ve been working so hard, and they’re amazing,” said Nadon.
“It’s been great. The community has been really supportive of us. We’re told by somebody probably everyday about how happy they are that we’re here. We’re a small community, and I think our store is just the right size for the community. We’re not a great big grocery store, but people are happy to have the services that we do offer… We have the basics. We have a little bit of everything, and people have been really happy to see us here,” said Rose.
“You work as a team and you get the job done, so our team has been absolutely fantastic,” said Johnson.
The Nishnawbe-Gamik Friendship Centre (NGFC) shared that they’ve been working to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and support the community during this time. The NGFC said they’re working with their off-site programs to ensure that staff, clients and the community have the additional supports that are needed.
“Since Monday the NGFC has:
• Delivered approx. 60 emergency hampers that include food and supplies for our Elders and families.
• Harvested and delivered Traditional medicines to the Sioux Lookout Supportive Housing project and Cold Weather drop-in Centre to support our most vulnerable community members.
• Provided clients with food vouchers and gift cards to ensure that they can purchase enough supplies until further financial help is available.
• Delivered additional formula, diapers and supplies to our families in need of emergency assistance.
• Are continuing medical transportation to our Elders who continue to need access to dialysis and health care,” said Jennifer Thomas, NGFC Executive Director.
“It is of the utmost importance that we provide on-going support to our community while committed to implementing social-distancing. We have communicated with our clients and families that Friendship Centre staff will drop off hampers and supplies at their door. Fresh Market Foods in Sioux Lookout has been a tremendous help and support during this time, and we acknowledge the assistance of Todd, Tracy and the entire staff at Fresh Market Foods. They have waived delivery fees, assembled food hampers and assisted with deliveries as well. They are to be commended for their efforts.
“It is our duty as organizations, community members and individuals to work together during this time of uncertainty and support our local healthcare agencies by doing our part. Wash your hands, implement social-distancing and be kind to one another,” Thomas continued.
Through their Facebook page, Nishnawbe-Gamik Friendship Centre, the NGFC will be engaging with community members, encouraging people to get active through fun activities while participating in self-isolation and social distancing.
“We encourage our community and clients to visit our Facebook page that provides alternate ways to contact us. We have also posted fun activities and things for families to do while in self-isolation and practicing social-distancing. We are all in these together,” said Thomas.
“We’ll be launching daily challenges consisting of at home activities for families to try. They will send me videos/photos of themselves doing the activity and we will be giving prizes to the most challenges completed… Could be anything from arts and crafts, games, music videos, skits, science experiments,” said Meghan Wilson, Healthy Living Kids Program Coordinator.
“We are hoping people can use this time to connect with their family and try some fun, screen-free activities,” said Wilson.
Other community members have been using Facebook as a means of making sure residents locally have access to essential supplies and any needs they might have. The COVID-19 Community Response public Facebook group has been helping connect community members who are in need of, and offering, support.
“I think it was the second week of February, I posted in the Sioux Lookout & Area Events & Services page on Facebook asking the community if anyone was interested in getting involved with helping people with mobility issues, or transportation issues, getting their 30 days’ worth of supplies. It just kind of blossomed after that. Another girl (Candace Kitchkeesick) offered to make the group. Her and I are admining it right now,” said Chelsea Pleau, group admin.
“For me, it first started when (Prime Minister) Trudeau made his first recommendations. It really scared me and startled me. I had family and friends that I could call and talk to, and I wanted to make sure that, if there were people in the community that didn’t have friends and family to call and talk to, talk them down, and tell them what they should buy, they could have a community response group to ask those types of questions.
“I think it’s more like a support group. If you were to message me, and ask me, ‘I’m afraid to go to the grocery store, can you pick up these items for me?’ I would absolutely do it. I feel like I’m not seeing a lot of that in the group. People are timid, I find, but just earlier this week I asked for something to do to entertain myself with and a community member dropped off some adult colouring books, so that was really nice. Another community member offered to drop off some video games, so if you asked for something in the group there are going to be other people that respond, acknowledge you, and then offer to provide what it is that you ask for. People need to just not be afraid to ask,” Pleau explained.
Pleau said the group is strictly for assisting others in the community and sharing information that is relevant to the community. She said she wants to avoid creating more fear and, instead, hopes to come together as a community to provide support and positivity during this time.
“The only thing I would say the group doesn’t offer is information or scare-mongering. Anything that gets posted is through the admins, and we don’t like to approve things that are like countdowns or this is the new numbers for today. We would rather focus on community-based, community-wise, topics that spread information as it relates to the community, but isn’t going to scare the community at the same time,” said Pleau.
“In this time, we need to all be practicing social distancing. It’s really paramount that everyone in the community practices some level of social distancing, and I think that if we all came together as a community, as we famously do in Sioux Lookout, we could try to provide each other with supports, love, and laughter through this time,” she said.
In a media release on March 18, the NWHU is recommending people practice social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The release states, “Northwestern Health Unit (NWHU) recommends that everyone in our area practice social distancing to help protect our communities and to keep others healthy. Implementing social distancing early is critical to help reduce the risk of COVID-19 in our communities.”
“How to practice social distancing:
Avoid crowded public spaces.
Stay two metres from others in public spaces.
Avoid physical contact with others, including handshakes.
If possible, ask your employer about options to work from home.
When possible, spend time outside and in settings where you can maintain a two metre distance from others.
If you are sick, stay home.
If you have recently traveled outside of the country or had close contact with a confirmedCOVID-19 case, stay home.
Limit contact with older individuals or those with chronic health conditions.
If you are high risk, avoid contact with those who are more likely to transmit illnesses such as small children.
“Social distancing does not mean “you must stay in your home”. You can still go outside to walk, go to the park, or go to the store; just use the precautions above when doing so. Remember you can always connect with family and friends using technology as well,” the release continues.
For more information on preventing the spread of COVID-19, visit www.nwhu.on.ca,