Since March 2020, we have seen our Old Ottawa South community come together in a spirit of neighbourliness in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Individuals have been connecting with their neighbours to see how they are faring. Community pillar organizations, including OSCA and churches, have made commendable pivots to a virtual environment, including new programming and supports. Local businesses have implemented creative approaches in response to physical distancing measures. Artwork and messages – taped to living room windows, attached to trees, or drawn on sidewalks – have inspired hope.
Last year, Senior Watch Old Ottawa South (SWOOS) and iGenOttawa had done some initial planning for a neighbourhood gathering this autumn with the theme, “Get Ready for Winter.” The event would have brought together residents of all ages to discuss practical challenges, such as winter walkability, and to brainstorm about ideas for encouraging and maintaining connections in the colder months. Little did we know at the time that such a fall gathering at the Firehall would not be possible.
As we enjoy these autumn days, now is the time to prepare for the winter season. Take time to engage with your neighbours – particularly those you suspect might be more vulnerable in the winter months. Consider focusing your attention on one or two neighbours. Check to see if you have their contact information and whether they would like regular calls over the winter. This is especially important for those who are not connected online. Perhaps there might be interest in setting up a phone tree, where you regularly call two neighbours to ask how they are doing. Maybe then those two people might consider calling two people, and so on. This long-established phone tree model can be a simple way for people to provide care and attention, and to feel connected with others.
In terms of practical help, there are lots of ways to provide neighbourly assistance this winter, especially in poor weather:
- picking up groceries and other essential supplies (e.g. prescriptions)
- clearing snow from walkway and front steps
- posting mail
- walking pets
For those of us who are able to help, you could raise this issue with neighbours in a phone call, email or when you next see them outside. Alternatively, you may want to drop off a personal note in their mailbox. For those who feel that they may need some assistance over the winter, don’t be reluctant to ask, as neighbours want to help. This is what it means to be in community with each other.
We will need to look out for one another this winter. If you see poor snow plowing on your walking routes, be the one who calls 311 to report it. If a neighbour’s walkway has remained uncleared and you are not sure how they may be doing, err on the side of reaching out to them. Neighbourly acts will make a real difference for others this winter. We have never needed good neighbours as much as we do now.
Have a look at the iGen website for a reminder checklist of things you can do to help your neighbour.