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United Way Durham uses federal funding to help seniors

By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express

United Way Durham has received $134,689 from the federal government to help seniors.

The federal government and United Way are teaming up to help seniors across Canada with the COVID-19 New Horizons Seniors Response Fund.

United Way Durham received the funds after the feds announced the national organization would receive $9 million to be spread across the country.

According to Robert Howard, United Way Durham’s chief possibility officer and vice-president, the company is thankful for the funds from the federal government.

“This money’s already out the door,” says Howard. “It was a very rapid deployment, it was a very broad community search. The instruction from the federal government was absolutely seniors focused, and was absolutely the most vulnerable seniors.”

The New Horizons for Seniors Program (NHSP) provides grants and contributions for projects aiming to help seniors, as well as fostering their social inclusion.

In Oshawa, NHSP will be providing funds to the Oshawa Senior Citizens Centre (OSCC 55+), and Simcoe Hall Settlement House.

A number of other organizations around Durham, including Distress Centre Durham, Shine Through the Rain, the Alzheimer Society of Durham Region, and a few others will receive funds from United Way Durham.

“The objective was that we would specifically deal with seniors. We would specifically deal with the most vulnerable component of the seniors population, and we need to mitigate the impacts of COVID,” says Howard.

At Simcoe Hall, United Way Durham used the funds to help deliver food and hygiene products from food banks.

At OSCC 55+, the funds will be used to help reduce social isolation through an expansion of social programs through virtual care.

“The key thing for us is that there was a rapid deployment of the funding,” he explains. “One of the things that United Way, in my opinion, brings to the table is that we are agile and we have a broad community network in terms of the availability in order to identify need.”

He adds the organization has a good understanding of existing community partners, so they don’t have to duplicate things.

“When the feds did this, I think it was a wise decision,” says Howard. “What they essentially said is, ‘There’s no sense reinventing the architecture… of the United Way network across the country,’ and the United Way network in Durham works.”

He explains the organization can quickly identify local need, and partners able to bring programs and services to the table.

He notes five of the grants in Durham went to non-United Way agencies.

“We’re capable of being objective enough and not just saying, ‘Who’s the best deliverer of this program, to this public, at this time?’ and that’s called objectivity. And that’s not a bad thing,” he says.