As a self-described extrovert, Vernon singer-songwriter Andrew Allen has no problems keeping connected with friends, bandmates and family during COVID-19.
Allen chats via applications such as Zoom and FaceTime or uses his tablet to stay in touch.
But when his thoughts turned to his late grandmother, who spent her final days at Vernon’s Polson Long-term Care, or his grandfather in Vancouver living in a care home, Allen realized there is a large part of the population not able to keep in touch with family, let alone visit, due to the pandemic.
Through the help of his church and a nurse, Allen is helping connect families electronically.
Allen and the C3 Church’s Josiah and Kimberley Olson have donated more than $10,000 in care packages, in the form of tablets, to North Okanagan care homes.
“For a lot of us, this (crisis) isn’t impossible, and while it can be stressful and confusing, there’s a beauty to having more time to play with our kids, get those jobs done we didn’t have time for, and connect with loved ones online,” said Allen, 39.
“But that’s where it got weird for myself, and for my friends at C3 Church. We realized that while we’re using our devices to remain connected, there’s a large group of people whose highlight of the day has been stripped, and logging into Zoom, or FaceTime or Skype from a computer or a tablet might not be an option.”
Allen mentioned a possible donation to Polson nurse and friend Nadine Toop, who then looked into whether other care homes would be interested.
Getting on board with the plan were Josiah and Kimberly Olson, pastors at the C3 Church in Vernon.
“The C3 Church was more than excited to get involved,” said Allen, who enlisted Toop to help with the project. “Nadine reached out to other homes.”
Toop’s son, Randall, programmed all the tablets and care home staff help residents operate them for family chats.
Nine tablets have been donated to facilities in Vernon and Armstrong.
Residents at Polson got an extra bonus when Allen performed a concert for them from his home, which was broadcast over the facility’s big-screen TV which was hooked up to the donated tablet.
“The residents loved it,” said Toop. “I had them up dancing.”
Allen said there is value in human connection.
“We knew we needed to do what we could to make sure that our friends and family members in care homes have the same opportunity to remain connected to their loved ones through this bizarre time as we do,” he said.