One of our favourite charities, Rural Ottawa South Support Services (ROSSS) just received a big boost in funding that grew out of our “Ride for ROSSS”.
ROSSS is an organization that provides affordable, quality health and social programs supporting older adults, adults living with disabilities, and their caregivers in rural communities south of Ottawa.
Lagois Design-Build-Renovate has been a supporter of and fundraiser for ROSSS for many years. Founder Herb Lagois sits on the ROSSS Board of Directors, and each year the company holds the “Ride for ROSSS” motorcycle event that generates funds for ROSSS through donations.
Recently, in looking for “Ride for ROSSS” donations, Herb Lagois turned to Scotia McLeod Charitable Foundation’s national program called Share the Wealth. As a result, the Foundation granted ROSSS $6,000.
Another local program, Youth of Manotick, (YOMA) also received $6,000 from ScotiaMcLeod through the Share the Wealth effort.
Each year ScotiaMcLeod employees are invited to nominate their favourite charity. They’re asked to explain why it’s important to them and why it makes a difference in their community. Their submissions go to a selection committee made up of employees whose submissions have won in previous years.
“When Herb Lagois told us about ROSSS,” says Bea Vanderwal, Investment Associate at ScotiaMcLeod, “it was a no-brainer because he was so passionate about it. He filled us in on all the wonderful things ROSSS does.”
Some of the services ROSSS provides for rural seniors are:
- affordable and accessible transportation services to medical appointments, social activities, banking, and shopping
- a wide variety of social programs through engaging and entertaining social activities
- assistance to caregivers with supportive programs, resources, and services that promote caregiver well-being
- home support services and personal support services by professional staff.
These services include hundreds of Meals on Wheels and hours of friendly visiting as well as respite care, an adult day program, and foot care.
“This funding is timely right now,” said Kelly Dumas, ROSSS Executive Director, “because we’ve hit the perfect storm.”
She explained that during the pandemic ROSSS received extra support that is no longer available. “But everyone is still feeling the huge impact [of the pandemic]”.
Added to that is the “exponential growth” of the cost of delivering most services ‒ tripled since Covid. That means increases in transportation and delivering Meals on Wheels, for example.
“Social programs, cost of food, doing business in a safe way all have increased,” she said. “We’ve had to have more small-group gatherings (because of Covid) rather than large groups. Small groups cost more because they require more staff. We’re getting back to large groups, but it all takes time.”
She added, “Besides the fallout from Covid, the impact of isolation and health issues have been dramatic. Our caregivers went for three years without support, and many are burned out. They’ve reached the end of their rope.”
The $6,000 funding is welcome because “it will allow us to bolster and keep running many of our programs at a time when we’ve been wondering if we could keep them going.”
Melissa MacIsaac, Manager of Funding and Outreach for ROSSS, added that the cost of running the programs has also increased because of an aging population. “And our donors are feeling the increase in costs, too,” she said. “People’s lives are just different than they used to be.”
There are ongoing needs and hope for future additions to ROSSS.
“If only we could have an adult day program at the same time as a caregivers’ support group in the same place,” said Kelly. “We want that so badly for our caregivers. But it’s costly. You wouldn’t believe the demand right now. We can’t fit our caregivers into the Legion room anymore.”
She said the grant from Scotia McLeod would make a big impact.
“We’re excellent at making ends meet,” she said, but this allows us to take a breath and say: ‘We can do this!’”
Donations come into ROSSS, too, in the form of many small amounts from rural recipients: “...from people who are under the poverty line,” Kelly explained. “They’ll give us $10 or $15. They’re so grateful for the difference we’ve made in their lives.”
She said the notes received with these donations are particularly beautiful.
“They talk about how important ROSSS is to them, how they wouldn’t be able to stay at home otherwise, how ROSSS has been a lifeline for them.”
She spoke about the perception of ROSSS among city dwellers, because people often don’t see Ottawa as being rural. Many simply don’t understand that rural seniors are often living below the poverty line in old farmhouses without adequate heat.
“The issues surrounding rural areas are not as front and centre as what you’d see in an urban setting,” she said. “It’s hard to understand the plight of rural seniors with disabilities.”
Rural caregivers are like an island unto themselves. Because people are aging, caregivers are sometimes looking after not only a spouse but also a parent. It’s exhausting, unrelenting work both physically and emotionally. Many suffer from the guilt of fatigue and even resentment or of wondering when it will all end.
ROSSS clients tell Kelly that ROSSS sees them where they’ve been invisible in the past.
“This is how they feel,” she said. “Seen and supported.”