Charlie Luong and his team at the Centre for Newcomers have made thousands of food deliveries over the past 11 months to Calgarians who found themselves without work or in isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic
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Charlie Luong — carrying a food hamper and other essential items for a family quarantining in Calgary’s northeast — exchanged pleasantries with the family from across the yard, on a day he was making deliveries.
A nearby resident and his dog surely thought they were fighting, said Luong with a laugh, remembering how he yelled from behind a mask on the sidewalk. The family, also donning masks, yelled back from the front porch.
This is one of thousands of deliveries Luong and his team at the Centre for Newcomers made over the past 11 months to Calgarians who found themselves without work or in isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We enjoy even a simple hello while I drop off the hampers, knowing some of the people are by themselves in quarantine and don’t have anyone to chat with,” Luong said.
The need was immediate as the deadly virus spread in Alberta. Since April 1, the local organization, in partnership with ActionDignity, has helped nearly 18,000 Calgarians.
“It’s tough out there right now and we need to be doing whatever good we can to help,” said Luong.
During the early days of COVID-19 — when shelves were emptied of toilet paper, flour and other essentials — Luong recalls dirty looks and rude comments from shoppers who assumed his overflowing cart was due to hoarding.
“I have thick skin but people have been quick to judge. Just take a minute in the grocery store to ask me why and then you’ll understand how needed this food is,” he said.
“We’re all in this together, truly. So, let’s all do our part to help others through this. But this was really challenging at the beginning.”
At the start, Luong and his team delivered up to 35 hampers per day.
In early December, the number of active cases in Calgary’s upper northeast peaked at 1,657 among its approximately 115,00 residents. Luong and his team found themselves delivering about 150 hampers per day to families in isolation
Calgary’s upper northeast experienced one of the highest active case rates in any geographic region in Alberta for much of the last year. This has been primarily attributed to socio-economic factors such as housing density and working conditions.
Another vital part of the deliveries was learning which culturally appropriate foods to add to each household’s box, Luong explained.
Luong said shopping, packing and delivering the care packages has been incredibly rewarding, especially knowing he has offered so many families solace and connection during a time of great uncertainty, if even for a brief moment.