Month Of Giving 2020: CUPS Calgary sees increased need for services amid COVID-19

CUPS Calgary has seen an increase in demand this year as families in the city struggle through the COVID-19 pandemic.

The organization, which helps high-risk families dealing with trauma or poverty get the tools they need to thrive and become self-sustainable, is the first charity being featured during Global Calgary’s Month of Giving.

CUPS offers 40 programs focused on physical and mental health, child and family development, as well as rent subsidy supports.

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“Our families definitely come in with a lot of challenges,” CUPS Calgary executive director Carlene Donnelly said.

“But they work really, really hard — not only to make their family units and their normal lives stronger and healthier, but to prevent some of the trauma that they went through in their own childhood.”

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CUPS Calgary Executive Director, Carlene Donnelly, with Global Calgary reporter, Dallas Flexhaug
CUPS Calgary Executive Director, Carlene Donnelly, with Global Calgary reporter, Dallas Flexhaug. Global Calgary

Tanya Pearson has benefitted from CUPS services for 16 years, and called it a “lifesaving program.”

“I’ve taken parenting programs through it,” she said.

Pearson’s children, ages six and three, both have special needs. The mother said the support she gets from CUPS to get her kids the treatment they need is invaluable.

“I don’t know where I’d be if it wasn’t for CUPS,” she said.

“They don’t just deal with families or children, they deal with a lot of the homeless population, a lot of the low-income population.”

Children eating lunch at CUPS Calgary Kindergarten program
Children eating lunch at CUPS Calgary Kindergarten program.

When gathering restrictions were put in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, CUPS had to pivot quickly, moving many of its programs online, which also meant getting clients the technology they needed to be able to participate virtually.

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The organization said there is a long road ahead for clients, not only with more people struggling financially, but with their mental health, too.

“We have an outreach mental health component — we have the longest waiting list we have had in a very, very long time. We need resources to be able to meet that need,” Donnelly said.

“The mental health concern and things like domestic violence and children [being] at risk, and all those things that happen when people are contained in a small space — we are certainly, as a community, going to have to keep an eye on and keep responding and supporting individuals, because I do see and I do expect that mental health and challenges around that area are going to decline.”

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CUPS is looking for donations of cash and gift cards for groceries and kids supplies as the holiday season approaches.

It also hopes to provide each client with a Christmas meal this year, wanting families to enjoy a stress-free holiday, so they can create good memories that last a lifetime.

Read more: Rising COVID-19 cases putting strain on Calgary charity organization

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Pearson said she knows there are many people needing a helping hand as the pandemic drags on, her family included.

“Out of any year in my recollection, this is the year when people need it most. I don’t know how a lot of the organizations are going to do it when everybody is suffering financially, as is,” she said.

Click here donate to CUPS Calgary as part of Global Calgary’s Month of Giving. 

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