A group of physicians from Health Sciences North have taken their health and wellness mission for the community far beyond the halls of the hospital. The Sudbury physicians have provided a cash donation to Inner-City Home of Sudbury for more than $100,000. A cheque presentation event was held Thursday.
Inner-City Home is a Sudbury relief agency that provides emergency food bank services, crisis support and life skills programs to thousands of financially challenged individuals and families.
Inner-City board president Joe Drago said the COVID-19 pandemic has made fundraising more of a struggle than ever expected. He said this new donation would help to keep Inner-City Home operating and providing services to families in need for the time being.
"Today, I'm so happy to say that with the generosity of this presentation, we're in a great position to continue looking after those in need, the families and the children," Drago said.
Drago, a former principal at Sudbury Secondary School, said it was the needs of children that first convinced him to work as a volunteer at Inner-City.
"This was prior to COVID. It breaks your heart to see kids that are in need and that are hungry, and especially the families that are in need. And it's getting worse," said Drago.
He said Inner-City Home needs about $250,000 annually to keep afloat. He said local fundraising is the only way Inner-City can survive. Drago thanked the doctors, the donors and the business community for their continued support..
Sudbury physician Dr. Stephen Morris outlined how during the beginning of the pandemic back in March of 2020 there was a lot of uncertainty over the supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) at the hospital. Morris said the local doctors decided to step up and take action.
"It was a frightening, scary time, particularly at the hospital. We didn't know what to expect. And there was a real scarcity of protective equipment; to the point where we were concerned for our patients because of our ability to treat our cancer patients, our ability to perform surgery was being threatened by the lack of PPE and the regular supply chains were just not delivering it. It became a real global crisis," Morris revealed.
He said that's when local physicians decided to band together. Morris mentioned that this included a group consisting of Dr. Bhanu Nalla, Dr. Lacey Pitre and others.
"And within a week, with just individual physician donations, we raised just under $300,000, to actually procure equipment," said Morris. This meant the local physicians were able to procure tens of thousands of face masks, face shields, gowns and even thousands of litres of hand sanitizer.
Eventually, said Morris, the official supply chains came through with more supplies. He said it meant that all the surplus material procured by the local doctors was able to be shipped out to India this past June when the pandemic flared up in that country. He said that was organized by Dr. Jagan Reddy of Sudbury.
It was also realized at that time that there was a surplus of more than $100,000 in the funds raised by the local physicians.
Morris said the doctors were offered a refund on their initial donations.
"Everybody said no. Let's just help out our community and help out as best we can with homelessness, with food insecurities, the opioid crisis, helping indigenous families and we couldn't think of a better way to do it," said Morris.
Jennifer Grooms, the executive director of Inner-City Home, said the donation will give a renewed sense of security to the work that her organization does in Sudbury.
"So Inner-City Home is the largest food provider -- emergency food support -- for our Greater Sudbury area. We service approximately 1400 households per month, that is growing very rapidly. It's difficult for us to project what the next year is going to look like, especially with the way the economy is going and the needs of our community. So this generous support today certainly makes us feel a little more secure in our mission moving forward," she said.
Grooms added that because the need continues, Inner-City Home will continue fundraising and welcomes community support.
Len Gillis is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter at Sudbury.com. He covers health care in Northern Ontario.
Len Gillis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Sudbury.com