COVID-19 Update to the Bernard Betel Centre Community (April 6)

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Dear Bernard Betel Centre Community,

We hope this update finds all of you safe and healthy. The past two weeks have been very busy for Betel staff both working remotely and those preparing, packaging and delivering our Meals on Wheels at the Centre. (Thus the reason for my not updating last week, my apologies!) On April 3 the Bernard Betel Centre Board of Directors, in consultation with Management, passed a motion indicating that all Bernard Betel Centre programs be closed, except for Meals on Wheels and remote/virtual/online programs. The motion went on to say that the building be closed to members, the public, and non-essential staff until further notice. It is hard to believe that on March 17 when the building initially closed, we genuinely thought it would be re-opening on April 6. Oh, how sadly the world has changed since March 17.

For the past two weeks, our chefs and cooks have been working tirelessly four days a week, practicing physical distancing in our Bernard Betel Centre kitchen where we are providing the essential service of preparing and delivering over 1,000+ Meals on Wheels each week. We strategically moved our Meals on Wheels operation out of the Reena kitchen back to the Betel kitchen where we can label, package and wrap the meals in our large auditorium and cafeteria more easily adhering to physical distancing procedures and protocols.

On Thursday, March 26, the Betel kitchen was koshered for Passover by the Kashruth Council of Canada-COR in order to continue our Meals on Wheels program during Passover. On March 30, our incredibly committed volunteers and staff were advised that in accordance with advice from the Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health, individuals over 70 years of age should self-isolate, continue to adhere to physical distancing and remain at home. As a result, many Betel staff have been redeployed to package and deliver our essential Meals on Wheels service.

For the past two weeks, all our program staff including those redeployed to assist with Meals on Wheels have been actively calling all our members and Door to Door clients. Over 2,000 members and clients in the community have already been called by the Bernard Betel Centre staff.

Initially when we started these ‘check-in/safety calls’ on March 17, our members and clients were positive of the new norm and exceptionally appreciative to receive these calls from staff. On a daily basis, we now hear how much our members and community members miss the social connectivity of being at the Centre participating in programs and services that were previously provided.

Our staff have found these calls critical to our members and clients as a way of staying connected, sharing new information from the Government and being able to address any needs or issues our members and clients may have. We are committed to continue these calls in both English and Russian throughout the time the building is closed.

I’m very excited to report that this past week our program staff initiated numerous online virtual programs via Zoom and Facebook Live. We are currently developing a ‘program schedule’ for the month of April which includes programs like: Computer Safety; Memory Boosters; Drawing with Maya; Fitness–Facebook Live; Women’s Discussion Group; Spanish Lessons and, Preparing for Passover to name a few.

Please join us for all or as many of these programs you would like as a way of staying involved with other members and Betel staff. If you have any suggestions for a new online program, please contact Maria Lindgren at with your suggestions.  Thanks also to Jerry Rush for performing yesterday, Sunday, April 5, LIVE on the Betel Facebook page.

We acknowledge that technology  is a challenge for many of us, and we are planning other remote programs using teleconferencing that don’t require the same level of technical knowledge or resources. Stay tuned for the announcement of these innovative programs in the near future.

So why are we putting so much effort into planning these online or remote programs and telephone calls? It’s because we care about you and our Betel community and want to stay connected in any way possible. Like the values of our organization: creativity, compassion, dignity; respect and community. For our staff, it is always about creating a safe, warm, welcoming community.

In closing, I would like to share with you a very touching video my brother forwarded me from the Tampa Jewish Federation “about a group of South African students practicing physical distancing singing Leonard Cohen’s powerful song Hallelujah, demonstrating that even when people are apart, we can still stay connected.”

Wishing you and your family a healthy, safe Passover. Chag Pesach Sameach and a Happy safe Easter!

Gail Gould
Executive Director
Bernard Betel Centre

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