An online COVID-19 Town Hall, co-hosted June 18 by White Rock Mayor Darryl Walker, Surrey-White Rock MLA Trevor Halford and South Surrey-White Rock MP Kerry-Lynne Findlay, had been billed as a chance for residents to call in and share their pandemic stories.
Instead, the hosts – and moderator Adam Smith, past president of the South Surrey White Rock Chamber of Commerce – heard primarily from representatives of organizations on the Peninsula who shared challenges of the last 15 months, but also optimism about a return to public events as provincial health restrictions are relaxed.
Also heard from were Cathy Wiebe, Fraser Health’s interim executive director of health services in Delta, White Rock and South Surrey, and White Rock Fire Chief Ed Wolfe, who both shared statistics detailing the ongoing decline in COVID-19 case numbers, particularly on the Semiahmoo Peninsula, and the rise in numbers of those protected by vaccination.
Wiebe said Fraser Health has established “great surge capacity” to cope with any new sudden increase in cases.
She also noted that people should also be aware Peace Arch Hospital is currently “open for urgent and emergent cases and care” despite the pandemic.
“If you do need care, don’t delay,” she said. “What we have been finding is that people are waiting just that little bit too long, thinking, ‘I’ll get COVID when I’m at the hospital’ or ‘they’re so busy, I don’t want to bother them.’
“If you’re in need of medical treatment, come – we want to see you,” she said.
Denice Thompson, events director for the local chapter of CARP (formerly the Canadian Association of Retired Persons) said the organization currently has some 2,000 members in the South Surrey-White Rock area.
“It’s been a real challenge – we hold a lot of events in the area and we had to cancel all of them,” she said.
“We’ve had a tough time trying to keep the membership involved, when we don’t have anything ongoing,” she added, noting that while educational meetings have shifted online, there has been a sense that members are getting “burned out” with Zoom meetings.
“A couple of the things that we did was we delivered small plants to some of the seniors’ residences and we’d go every few months to deliver the Zoomer magazine.”
But a major cancelled event, a fundraising ‘Mad Hatter’s Tea Party’ originally planned for May of this year at the Oceana PARC, is to be re-scheduled for next year for April 30, the Saturday before Mother’s Day, Thompson said.
Karin Bjerke-Lisle, executive director of White Rock Museum and Archives, said the museum was one of the first city facilities to close to the public when the COVID-19 crisis emerged in March of last year.
“I wasn’t comfortable keeping the museum open because we have a lot of people in a very vulnerable demographic,” she said. “We continued to operate because (while we’re) not essential workers, the museum does so much more than (put on) exhibits or have a gift shop. I became the only person to come in on a daily basis and my team rotated.”
But she noted, too, “how the community came together to support each other,” and she encouraged people to come and see the museum’s latest exhibit, focusing on the history White Rock’s pier, which opens June 29 under pandemic protocols.
Emma Harvey, former White Rock Youth Ambassador and now WRYA recruitment co-ordinator, said that while participating in events was necessarily curtailed, terms of 2019 and 2020 ambassadors have been extended, boosting the numbers of active team members to 15, and the organization has actually flourished online through social media and virtual seminars.
“Each member of our team has been extremely dedicated and it’s been amazing to see how youth are keeping themselves engaged during this time when we can’t really go out. The content of our training meetings has actually been improved by the shift to Zoom, as people can join us from their own homes.
“We’ve teamed up with the White Rock Elks and the Peninsula Retirement Residence to provide lunches to seniors in the area through our Bunches of Lunches program every month – so if you know someone 65 or plus, send them to bunchesoflunches.ca and we’ll deliver them a lunch, completely free.”
White Rock resident and community activist Pat Petrala, noting that many still do not use online access as their main means of information, suggested there is need for more physical community notice boards to be set up on the Peninsula – something Walker, Halford and Findlay all promised they would look into.