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CHATS marks 40 years of helping seniors with virtual anniversary event

Andre Picard, one of Canada's top health and public policy observers and commenters, is the featured speaker
2020 04 22 CHATS van
CHATS continues to offer essential services such as Meals on Wheels throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Supplied photo/CHATS

It has been 40 years since CHATS first began seniors in the area and they are celebrating with a virtual event as part of its annual general meeting in June.

The organization is inviting everyone to join them on Zoom for a two-hour long event featuring a tribute video, the announcement of the winner of their writing contest, and keynote speaker Andre Picard, who recently published a book about improving elder care in the wake of the pandemic.

In Neglected No More, the award-winning author and journalist takes a hard look at how we came to embrace mass institutionalization, and lays out what can and must be done to improve the state of care for our elders, a highly vulnerable population with complex needs and little ability to advocate for themselves.

“We’re hoping to make it as festive as possible in a virtual world,” Rhonda Flanagan, director of development, marketing, and communication, said. “We wouldn’t usually have a keynote speaker but this year we thought this is a special occasion, so that’s why we’re having Andre Picard come and join us.” 

In the past 40 years, CHATS has grown from a group of volunteers sitting around a kitchen table to a staff of 350 people with more than 500 volunteers servicing 8,500 clients. 

During the pandemic, they have shifted operations by hosting virtual wellness and physically distanced in-person programs, and supported seniors’ physical and emotional needs through food delivery, transportation services, reassurance phone calls, and the direct care PSWs provide.

“I think we have more than risen to the challenge,” Flanagan said. “It’s definitely an area that there has been a huge need in the last year and a half, but CHATS has, I believe, certainly stepped up to fill that void where a lot of seniors needed that helping hand.” 

CHATS’ 40th anniversary was actually in 2020, however due to the public health situation at the time they opted to push it back a year, Flanagan said. 

“We were hopeful that we wouldn’t have to celebrate it this way, but that is the reality, unfortunately,” she said. “No one could have foreseen that a year later we would still not be able to get together, so we just decided we didn’t want to wait any longer. We have a lot to celebrate."

Registration for the virtual event is now open. The celebration and AGM will take place on Wednesday, June 23 from 6 to 8 p.m.

Elizabeth Keith

About the Author: Elizabeth Keith

Elizabeth Keith is a general assignment reporter. She graduated from Carleton University with a Bachelor of Journalism in 2017. Elizabeth is passionate about telling local stories and creating community.
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