ST. MARY’S – In a bid to ensure its programs and services are relevant, staff at the Municipality of the District of St. Mary’s have begun asking unvaccinated residents about their recreational and lifestyle needs while provincial restrictions apply to many activities.
A notice titled “Survey for Unvaccinated Community Members” posted to the municipality’s website last week states that its “Community Development and Recreation Department is looking for more information to help provide services now that the Province’s Proof of Vaccination Policy is in effect,” adding that “responses will be confidential. You do not have to provide a name to participate.”
In a statement emailed to The Journal, Chief Administrative Officer David Hutten said the municipality wants the information to help it build and deliver relevant programming “to ensure that the programs and services offered are meeting the needs of our residents … whatever their situation may be.”
He indicated the idea originated with Director of Recreation and Community Development Kerri Penney, who “thought a survey would help us gain understanding of what concerns or interests, or specific demands were out there – and help us consider ways we could meet these needs, close any gaps in opportunity to participate and ensure that community building continues through inclusion, and adaptation wherever possible.”
In an email to The Journal, Penney explained that “The Community Development and Recreation Department’s ultimate goal is to ensure that everyone has access to opportunities to have fun, be active and live a healthy lifestyle … There are many ways for people to engage in meaningful recreation … Since COVID-19 hit our community, we have been forced to get creative with our program delivery, this new policy is just the next phase of that effort… The survey is a tool for staff to ensure that services are accessible to everyone in our community.”
The survey posted last week asks: “Would you participate in self-led recreation programs at home or in an outdoor space? If yes, what programs would you be interested in participating in: creative programs, renting equipment, literacy programs, cooking/baking, self-led outdoor education programs, play boxes, gardening, virtual programming, virtual fitness programming or fitness challenges, visiting outdoor spaces,” and “other.”
It further enquires: “What are your barriers to participating in self-led recreation programs; what supports do you need to participate in self-led recreation programs?” and “Do you have any suggestions or ideas to help us better serve you?”
Answers are to be emailed to Penny. Hard copies can be found at the municipal office and will be in the November issue of St. Mary’s newsletter.
Neither Hutten nor Penney could confirm the number of residents in St. Mary’s who may, for whatever reason, remain unvaccinated. The Government of Canada’s COVID-19 tracker indicates that 737,561 Nova Scotians were fully vaccinated (74 per cent of the eligible population) as Oct. 10. No data was available on specific regions of the province.
Said Hutten: “We did not concern ourselves with specific numbers of who is or is not vaccinated. Our interest is to ensure our programming is made available to any and all, and that we alternatively support or residents with their needs during times where certain programming is difficult to attend for a variety of reasons … Our interest remains healthy community throughout times of change and challenge.”
Added Penney: “We aren’t necessarily concerned with particular numbers of how many people are or are not double vaccinated … we are more concerned with ensuring our programs and services meet the needs of all residents throughout these continuing times of change and complication.”
Alec Bruce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal