It has been a week since my last blog, and in the meantime, I’m becoming more and more proud of our country’s efforts to fight this pandemic. There has been a huge outpouring of support from large companies and organizations, and from prominent Canadians, who are not just using their profile, but rolling up their sleeves to help.
The same holds true for our political parties and all levels of government. I am heartened by what I see as unprecedented levels of co-operation.
But zooming in from the big picture, there are countless smaller, local efforts also deserve mention.
Our riding of Newmarket-Aurora plays host to so many of these – residents and business people who are pitching in to help one another. Donating and delivering food, running errands, and providing moral support are among the ways they are showing that we are all in this together.
Newmarket’s Deputy Mayor Tom Vegh partnered with some well-known local talent (including Sam Reid of Glass Tiger) to put together an inspiring video featuring the song United We Stand. Community leaders, politicians, musicians, residents, and business people all volunteered their faces and voices (remotely, of course) to be a part of this demonstration that strength found in togetherness.
It was released over the Easter Weekend, a time when family usually gets together, and I’m sure it will bring a smile to your face.
On a smaller scale, one local family has been using chalk art to provide inspirational messages around town. That too is about lifting people’s spirits during dark times, along with letting our health care workers know they are appreciated.
That message was also delivered on a recent convoy on Davis Drive. Police cars, fire trucks and ambulances, along with residents’ vehicles participated in the community-driven ‘Honk for Healthcare Heroes’ parade. It was a touching gesture for our Southlake workers.
Local community organizations, like our food pantries, have also risen to the challenge. They’ve had to adapt to reduced donations, an even greater number of struggling families – and volunteers who are risking their health to deliver this essential service.
And it’s not just families who are struggling, but many local businesses. Few would argue the importance of ensuring that workers continue to receive income support, but business owners are equally vulnerable. Many have been forced to close to normal traffic – and are looking for ways to survive the next several weeks and months.
Fortunately, the local Chambers of Commerce have stepped up to this challenge.
The Aurora Chamber (ACOC), in partnership with the Town, has launched Shopfromhomeaurora.ca – a free service to help those Aurora businesses still able to offer their products and services. More specific to dining, an industry exceptionally hard hit by this crisis, the Chamber is facilitating a takeout and delivery Facebook group for everything from bakeries to restaurants to catering services.
The ACOC is also offering a gift certificate program (a great way to help businesses currently closed or with limited services), as well as numerous free webinars and virtual networking events. Zoom meetings are becoming routine for many of us, and are a great way to continue seeing and hearing from colleagues and customers.
The Newmarket Chamber (NCOC) is also offering a local gift certificate program, as well as a Facebook “shop local” marketplace, and Facebook group where local businesses can support one another, stay up-to-date, and share best practices.
Virtual town halls, Q&A sessions, breakfast networking (bring your own food and coffee!), social media clinics, and networking meetings are also available through the NCOC.
Much of this, I believe, will remain long after COVID, as hardship has encouraged many of us to reinvent our businesses and personal lives – finding new ways to maintain and build our relationships.
As a parting thought, I’d encourage all of you to continue to be generous, and remember that the health and well being of our community depends on what we do today. Be it social distancing, ordering a weekly take-out meal, or picking up your neighbour’s groceries, let kindness be the ‘new normal’ when all this is finally over.
Tony Van Bynen, MP