By Dauna Ditson

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Erla Mottram, a retired nurse, wasn’t sure how she and her partner would get their groceries during the pandemic until the Volunteer Columbia Valley website ( offered a matchmaking tool to connect those in need of personal shoppers with those willing to collect their groceries and prescriptions.

“It’s been a real relief because we’re both vulnerable, and I’m disabled as well,” Mottram said. “We got the most cheerful, wonderful grocery shopper that you could possibly get.”

That shopper, Christine Winchester, finds Mottram to be “a gem” too. Every two weeks she’s been arriving at Mottram’s doorstep with arms full of groceries and necessities. Both are pleasantly surprised to find a new no-contact friendship budding during a time of self-isolation.

“What’s been really nice about it is she’ll stand in the window and wave at me. The first time I did it she was like blowing kisses, saying ‘thank you so much,’” Winchester said.

She’s been shopping for a few people and enjoying seeing their grocery lists and learning about products – like kefir (a probiotic milk beverage) – that are new to her.

“My parents are in Ontario, and I can’t be there to help my mom. There’s other people delivering to her so it’s very nice to be able to pay it forward and do it for somebody here,” Winchester said. “But ultimately I’m becoming the winner in this because it leaves me with such a sense of happiness that, not only have I made a new friend, I feel really good about making a difference for her so that she doesn’t have to go out.”

Steph Van de Kemp and her family have also formed new relationships through their volunteer service.

“We’ve made a friendship with Peggy Wacko and her husband Alan,” Van de Kemp said. “She’s been showing me her bird feeders in her backyard and I’ve been asking her how we can get more birds in our yard. She invited us to her driveway so the kids could choose a bird house.”

Laurie Klassen, who connected the volunteers with those in need, said 82 volunteers signed up for the grocery shopping program, and that eager volunteers far outnumbered the 50 people who asked for assistance.

Klassen said she’s heard various reasons why so many volunteers came forward, including that it helps them feel as though they’re “doing something” during the pandemic and can be a way to give back if they’ve received support.

“Our community has always rallied in times of crisis,” Klassen said. “All the volunteers are so eager and willing to help their fellow residents. In the early days, when the level of fear and anxiety was very high, this was so amazing to me. So much caring and so much kindness. I am so touched and I feel very blessed that I could play a small role in helping the community during this pandemic … Many volunteers went out of their way to help. There is just so much kindness. And kindness is really infectious.”

Photo of Erla Mottram