When someone needs lifelong support, or disease or injury derails a life, a loved one often takes on the irreplaceable role of caregiver.
And while there are supports out there that honour the strength of spirit of these caregivers by providing respite and support, the pandemic took many of those away.
That was the case for Peter Thomsen, a retired United minister, and his wife, Anna Lin, a retired Lutheran pastor on Denman Island.
“We met actually my very first year of college on a blind date on Friday the 13th,” recalls Peter with a laugh.
“We had been married for almost 54 years when she died.”
After many years of supporting people spiritually, Anna Lin and Peter’s life changed drastically when she became disabled by a condition called acute intermittent porphyria. And with that, Peter became her loving caregiver.
They were managing well for many years, says Peter. Nurses and support workers came by regularly to help. But Anna Lin was then also diagnosed cancer. And then the COVID-19 pandemic took all of the couple’s in-home supports away.
Thankfully, one new United Way-funded support program called the Farm to Family Meals Service become available to them at the start of the pandemic crisis.
For years, Erika Bland had seen the dual-need for Denman-Island farmers to get their produce to market, and for healthy, hand-made meals to be made available to seniors.
After years of planning and fundraising, Erika sold her hand-made meals with locally-sourced ingredients at cost in January of 2020. And, rather than stop due to the pandemic, Erika and her volunteers forged ahead, responding to the increased need from self-isolating seniors with the help of a United Way grant.
With that funding, meals became free, and the brand-new program was able to scale-up production.
“The grant that we got last year from United Way was incredible,” says Erika.
“It has set us up for, literally, years. Being able to purchase equipment and have a little bit of backing that first year when we were first figuring things out [was important]. And now we’ve got a really strong volunteer group, we’ve got a good relationship with the farmers, we’ve got good relationships with the community hall where we rent the kitchen … it was pivotal for us to have that funding.”
Now, 35 people are supported through the program, receiving a selection of free hand-made frozen meals every two weeks. And local farmers have a consistent buyer for their produce.
The program has made a difference for people like Peter, both as a caregiver and now on his own after Anna Lin’s recent passing.
“It makes my life simpler and easier,” says Peter.
With your help, programs like Farm to Family can continue making a difference for Peter and your neighbours in your community.
“Denman Island is, I think, a caring community as a whole and this Farm to Family thing represents who and what this community is,” says Peter. “And the gifts from United Way to make it happen is, I know, very much appreciated by many, many people here.”