Community Living of Fort Erie finds virtual ways to help people it supports
Richard Hutton Fort Erie Post Thursday, May 13, 2021
Jack Ammer likes to feel connected to his community.
Before the pandemic he was a volunteer for Intercede International and attended weekly church services and Bible study at Windmill Point Church. He could also go to karaoke at the local legion or enjoy a cold beer on a restaurant patio.
But when the coronavirus pandemic hit – bringing with it public health measures that included restrictions on public gatherings – Jack’s life underwent a dramatic change. The resident of Community Living of Fort Erie’s (CLFE) group home in Ridgeway was cut off from all the social activities he enjoys.
But Jack has managed to get some of that back after Community Living was awarded a $40,000 grant from the federal government’s Emergency Community Support Fund (ECSF) to upgrade technology and purchase digital equipment for the organization and people it supports.
The funding was used to purchase items such as iPads, laptops, computer monitors, wireless access points and Ethernet equipment to facilitate social interaction for the people supported by CLFE.
“Technology has not only helped Jack to connect with his family but has promoted family and friends utilizing technology to reach out to him,” said Auedrah DeHeus, a CLFE support worker who works with Jack. “Family and friends are so important to the people we support that we want to help keep them connected.”
Jack has been using an iPad for video chats with his sister, Mousse Zenne, a couple of times a week. Zenne, a Niagara Falls resident, appreciates the time she is able to spend with Jack.
“Since I can’t come see him, this is the next best thing to being there,” she said. “It’s just not enough.”
She described her brother as a “social butterfly” who enjoys being around other people and is looking forward to when restrictions are lifted. That being said, her brother had told her that he is making the best of his situation.
“He tells us he is very happy where he lives and the support staff are doing a great job during these difficult times.”
Tony Hill is another person Community Living is supporting. A budding artist, he has been able to access art classes online and hone his skills during the pandemic, his support worker says.
According to Laurie Armstrong, who is Tony’s support worker, CLFE staff have been able to show him how he can make use of technology to further his passion for art and more.
“Not only does technology help Tony to participate in art classes, it also helps him to connect with his family through video and attend his weekly worship study class virtually,” Armstrong said.
And like Hill, Nathan Hajdu has a creative side and was attending weekly keyboard lessons at the Fort Erie School of Music prior to the pandemic. When the pandemic hit it was a challenge to try and figure out how to ensure that he was still able to participate in something that he enjoyed. He has been able to continue his lessons online.
“I like having my music lessons and Rob is a good teacher” Nathan said.
CLFE Executive Director Vickie Moreland said getting the funds for tech equipment was important to help during the pandemic, but it will also play a big role in the future of the organization.
“It will help to decrease feelings of social isolation and will help our organization to be sustainable now, during the pandemic, and remain relevant in a post COVID-19 world,” Moreland said. “Our staff are very dedicated and resourceful and they have worked very hard to assist people to remain connected to their communities during the pandemic.”
STORY BEHIND THE STORY: Community Living of Fort Erie received $40,000 from the federal government to purchase tech items to keep the people they support connected. The Fort Erie Post spoke to representatives from the organization and clients to see how the funding has impacted them.