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North End Dartmouth non-profit, The North Grove, puts down new roots amid COVID-19

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There’s a new non-profit in North End Dartmouth that’s been around for 25 years.

The Dartmouth Family Centre, established in 1994, and the five-year-old Dartmouth North Community Food Centre have amalgamated to share one location and one name: The North Grove.

The North Grove offers programs, services and a space for people to learn and connect through family support, food and friendship.

But changes to day-to-day life due to COVID-19 have made their outlook a little foggy.

“I can’t think of another time in my lifetime where we’ve had to think as a world,” says Anne-Marie McElrone, director of partnerships and fundraising at The North Grove. “We’ve all been facing the same challenges and it’s just a really important reminder of how linked we always have been and are to one another.”

It was last year that the staff decided to combine and create The North Grove.

The idea was to make a more accessible location for everyone in the North End Dartmouth community to use and take advantage of free programs like home visiting, cooking classes and parent and family development.

“We were constantly being confused with the Dartmouth North Library or the Dartmouth North Community Centre and so we just decided we need a new name,” McElrone says. “The name really talks about the feeling that people have when we’re together.”

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McElrone says the name The North Grove is a nod to the community of North Dartmouth and as a symbol of the North Star, representing guidance and strength.

McElrone said these individuals are at the greatest risk of being socially isolated, as they may not have access to technology.

“Seniors living alone, men living alone, we’re hoping they want to stay in touch by phone, but that can be hard. Talking to someone on the phone is not the same as seeing someone in-person or sitting at a table with a group of people and sharing a meal.”

Maintaining strong lines of communication with the community they serve is just one of the many challenges The North Grove faces during COVID-19.

They are down to a skeleton staff in order to maintain a sanitized, controlled environment with no volunteers permitted to help keep up with demands.

Since mid-March, The North Grove staff have provided over 4,000 meals and 2,000 bags of critical supplies to the people they serve in North End Dartmouth. Downtown Dartmouth restaurant, The Canteen, has stepped-up to alleviate some of the pressure on The North Grove as a second kitchen for meal-prep once a week.

McElrone says they’ve been raising funds for COVID-19 efforts through their Good Food Access Fund, helping to put healthy meal options in the hands of people in North End Dartmouth.

Donations can be made through The North Grove website at thenorthgrove.ca.

McElrone says if you can’t make a monetary donation to help The North Grove, another good way to help is by heeding the advice of public health officials.

“Self-isolate and practise social distancing for the people in the community who are at risk,” she says.  “Be concerned for the people in your community. We need to all remember we are acting this way as a community, as a country to protect one another.”

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