Rene Leclerc cautions people to keep their distance as he prepares to hand out brown paper bag lunches in Boitanio Park to those in need. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

Volunteers deliver food, but keep their distance from those in need in Boitanio Park Sunday

COVID-19 has outreach programs in Williams Lake modifying how they can still help the needy

Every Sunday in Williams Lake, dozens of people in need go to Boitanio Park for a hot lunch, usually homemade soup and a sandwich, and have a visit with those reaching out to them.

This weekend (March 22) more than 50 vulnerable people were anxiously waiting for lunch in the park when Rene and Karla Leclerc, members of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, arrived just after noon.

But instead of a hot meal and a visit, those in attendance were told to stay back and keep their distance by Rene, who tried to explain the precautions were necessary due to concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rene smiled as he placed several boxes containing individual brown paper bags filled with a sandwich and a piece of fruit made by church volunteers, on picnic tables for distribution.

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“Here you go. God bless you,” he said, before leaving.

Usually, volunteers bring hot, homemade soup and stay to visit with everyone as they dish it out, but there was none of that on Sunday amidst the COVID-19 crisis, leaving many in attendance looking confused.

“So, there’s no soup today,” one asked as Rene was leaving.

Another, when asked by the Tribune if they understood what was happening due to the COVID-19 outbreak, shrugged her shoulders and said “not really.” She and another young woman there said they were both homeless.

“A lot of these people don’t understand what’s happening,” noted Karla.

On Monday, March 23, recipients of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul’s food hamper program will feel more changes in the way the society, and other non-profit groups, delivers food to those in need, as governments continue to place strict rules around social distancing.

Tamara Robinson, director of community services with the Salvation Army, said earlier this week they are trying to connect with their vulnerable clients as they face continued social isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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