COVID-19 Update to the Bernard Betel Centre Community (June 8)

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Dear Bernard Betel Centre Community,

There are two words in the English language that mean more to me today than ever before. They both begin with the letter ‘H’. They are ‘Heroes’ and ‘Hope’. Wikipedia defines ‘hero’ (heroine in its feminine form) as a real person or a main fictional character who in the face of danger, combats adversity through feats of ingenuity, courage or strength. They are admired for courage, outstanding achievement, or noble qualities. ‘Hope’ is an optimistic state of mind that is based on an expectation of positive outcomes with respect to events and circumstances in one’s life or the world at large. As a verb, its definitions include ‘expect with confidence’ and ‘to cherish a desire with anticipation’.

Over the past few months we have seen unbelievable acts of heroism displayed by our frontline healthcare workers, our TTC drivers, store cashiers, and a host of other selfless individuals who have demonstrated their courage and strength in the face of this debilitating and deadly pandemic.

In addition to these incredible heroes who are absolutely deserving of our respect, admiration and heartfelt thanks, are my heroes – the staff and volunteers of the Bernard Betel Centre. Whether it is the men and women, who come to the Bernard Betel Centre (as deemed by the provincial government as an essential service) in the face of physical danger to themselves, to shop, cook, prepare, serve, package, and deliver over 2,000 meals on wheels each week or those staff, and volunteers who are keeping our members and community safe by providing online programs and check-in safety calls to thousands of seniors in the community – YOU are my heroes!

As the Executive Director of the Bernard Betel Centre, I could not be more blessed and proud of our entire staff and committed volunteers. Their commitment, compassion, dedication, courage, and strength is to be acknowledged and celebrated. Every day they selflessly come to the Centre practicing physical distancing, focused on producing and delivering as many meals on wheels as possible to seniors in the community. I have witnessed them being so exhausted and emotionally depleted at the end of the work day that they could barely move, almost too tired to go home.

For the staff and volunteers making check-in/safety phone calls, hearing daily about many of our seniors’ feelings of isolation and loss, the personal and emotional impact is significant. They do it because they care and want to support and assist those individuals who during these unprecedented times are more vulnerable, lonely, and looking for community and the familiarity of Betel. Due to the need for physical distancing and physical vulnerability of our seniors, many have not had the opportunity to see or connect with various loved ones. They are looking to be engaged and connected to those individuals whom they are familiar with and have had some previous connections. These calls provide that opportunity as being able to participate in the well over 80 creative online or teleconferencing programs that our staff and volunteers are facilitating during the month of June.

This past Friday afternoon, under the leadership of our Community Support Services staff and in conjunction with JDY Theatre, five incredibly talented youth played for over an hour for a group of 300+ seniors living in a Toronto Community Housing seniors’ building, one of Betel’s Healthy at Home sites. This innovative program is the first of its kind in Toronto, where tenants who all had individual balconies could practice physical distancing while watching a live concert by these Russian-Canadian youth, singing in English, Hebrew and Russian. In addition to this beautiful and moving pre-Sabbath program, each of the seniors in the building received a special Sabbath meal. These staff and youth are my heroes bringing both joy and hope to the seniors living in this Toronto Community Housing building. A clip of this concert can be seen HERE (at the 1:12 mark).

When our staff were asked what is the most important word to them now, the majority of them responded ‘hope.’ Hope for things to get better with the development of a vaccination to stop the contagious reality of COVID 19. Hope to be able to return to work soon to see colleagues, members and volunteers. Hope for a more just and peaceful world where black lives matter and bigotry and racism are not tolerated. Hope that we may see and celebrate the re-opening of the Bernard Betel Centre in good health with all of our staff, members and volunteers in the near future.

My hope is that we remain in touch with all of you in good health, sharing and caring and working towards a gentler, kinder more compassionate and tolerant community.

Did you know?

  • Last week, our Food Services, Meals on Wheels staff and volunteers produced and delivered over 2,000 meals on wheels (50% more than pre-COVID-19);
  • Last week, our program staff made over 260+ check-in/safety phone calls and made over 225 referrals to other services and resources;
  • That our weekly Monday Facebook Live Fitness with Maria gets 150+ views each week;
  • That our weekly Zoom Cooking Club has 20-25 participants each week;
  • 20 volunteers delivered Meals on Wheels last week contributing 84 volunteer hours;
  • Last week, 8 volunteers part of the ‘Chai Callers’ made 71 check-in/safety calls and provided 18 seniors with information and referrals;
  • Last week, our Chiropodists made 106 check-in calls to patients and 56 referrals to other services;
  • Our Community Support Services team connected with 623 seniors and delivered 304 Sabbath meals to one of our Toronto Community Housing seniors’ buildings prior to the JDY Seniors’ Concert.

Stay healthy and safe.


Gail Gould
Executive Director
Bernard Betel Centre



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