‘We have now nothing’: Regina non-profits search donations as mercury soars

Regina community orgnizations are feeling increased pressures as temperatures soar above 30 degrees in the Queen City.

“Once it starts hitting the plus-30s in the afternoon we’re going to have probably 15-20 people just wanting to sit inside where it’s air-conditioned,” said Emile Gariepy, who works as a paramedic at Nēwo-Yōtina Friendship Centre.

“Sometimes somebody will come in and give us a big pack of water or freezies and they go out in a couple of days.”

Gariepy said donations have from the community have slowed down this summer.

“If we have water and things like popsicles for people to go off and cool down that’s a huge help but at the moment we have nothing.”

Gariepy said the Centre accepts monetary donations, but it is also looking for donations of things like water bottles, popsicles, freezies, and sunscreen.

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A Regina Food Bank spokesperson said the heat is also complicating its operations.

“For our users who are transit-reliant, they are going to be exposed to extreme heat while waiting for transit service to arrive here,” said Storytelling and Campaigns Manager Melissa Fiacco.

“We do offer delivery, but what that means is we’re incurring greater costs in fuel. It also requires more capacity from our employees and volunteers to reach those households when the temperature rises.

Fiacco said high temperature events also impact donations as increased utility costs can put the squeeze household budgets.

She added she expects demand for things like sunscreen at the food bank, which distributes much more than just food, to increase as inflationary pressures rise.

“When people are living with food insecurity and they are making extremely challenging decisions on whether they’re going to purchase food or pay their rent…something like sun care is probably not their first priority

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Fiacco encourages those looking to donate to do so online.

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Sterling Robinson with All Nations Hope Network said the organization’s Regina drop-in centre, Awasiw: the Place of Hope, has been seeing an increase in traffic as well.

“People need a plce to go and cool down and get that time out of the sun. We’ve noticed a big influx this week of people within our facility,” Robinson said.

She said that, similar to at the Nēwo-Yōtina Friendship Centre, donations of things like water bottles, freezies and popsicles can go a long way towards helping people cope with the heat.

She added donations of sunscreen are welcome as well, as seeking out the product is far from a top priority when basic necessities like staying hydrated and finding shelter need to be met.

“Sunscreen is extremely expensive and just the idea of having to put on sunscreen is an after thought behind having a place to cool down or having a glass of water,” she said.

“Putting on sunscreen is not really on top of our people’s to do list.”

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Another organization, meanwhile, is hoping to make suncare products more accessible to all.

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The Save Your Skin Foundation, based out of Penticton, has launched a national sunscreen dispensary pilot project this August with hopes of expanding the initiative in the near future.

“There are socioeconomic populations who just cam’t afford it,” said founder Kathy Barnard. “This year we have six going in BC, six in Alberta, four in Prince Edward Island and one in Moncton, New Brunswick.”

Barnard hopes to get all provinces involved next year, but says finding Health Canada-approved product has been challenging.

Barnard, who is a malignant melanoma survivor, reminds everyone that sunscreen should be applied 20 miniutes prior to sun exposure and every two hours after.

“Your skin is an organ, the largest in your body, so it’s really important you take precautions,” she said.

“We have 80,000 new cases of skin cancer every year in Canada. As soon as your skin changes colour it’s screaming for you to pay attention. ”

A list of cool-down locations in Regina is available here.

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