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When COVID-19 abruptly put a stop to face-to-face and group connections at the Houston Friendship Centre, the staff quickly found creative ways to ensure their clients, particularly those with young children, still felt connected and supported.

“In the beginning of COVID when things were very uncertain and people were staying on lock down, we tried to go above and beyond when it came to our clients/families special events,” says Early Years Worker, Jackie Maurer.

While programs were adapted to ensure clients could safely continue to access services in new ways such as contactless pickup for food security, online programming and activity/craft kits for kids, the staff realized that the programs they offer are more than simply services, they are about social connection for many of the families they serve.

“They were missing out on the social aspects and feeling connected. So when they had a special life event like a birthday I still wanted them to have a special day,’ Jackie explained.

With families unable to gather together for special events, the Friendship Centre staff found creative ways to ensure the children and their families were celebrated.

Activities included, drive by honking, delivery of birthday cakes and singing happy birthday from a distance.

“We did things like baked cakes and delivered them to the door. Always being careful to follow extra protocol cleaning, wiping down containers and bags before and after each transfer, as well as when we prepped items,” says Jennifer Rousseau, mental health counsellor for Houston.

Staff also provided fun birthday activity kits for the children and always took the time to sing happy birthday from a minimum 6 foot distance to the special birthday girl or boy.

The clients who received this extra care from their support workers were overwhelmed.

“I almost cried happy tears, heard honking and beeping and I came outside and they sung me happy birthday Happiest chick around right now!”

“You have been impeccable with your help and support. I absolutely love the friendship centre crew for all their help <3”

When asked the impact of this support, Jackie Maurer explains, “We saw that during a time of isolation there is an important need to acknowledge the parents and their children on their special day. I believe these extra efforts we put in helped to boost self-esteem and mental health and above else, remind families they are not alone in this.”