It was a true pleasure to be featured in Watershed Magazine’s Summer 2020 Issue. Watershed chose to highlight a few citizens who were taking extraordinary measures to respond to COVID-19. I couldn’t do what I do without the volunteers that support my initiatives and the community that inspires me to care for our people.
The below article is the full article from Watershed Magazine.
Nicole Beatty: Every day Another Bridge
By Meghan Sheffield
Early mornings find Nicole Beatty walking beside the lake in Cobourg, listening to the waves, breathing in the fresh winds that whip up the waters. It’s a solitary start to a day that is otherwise filled with people and social connection – even in a time of physical distancing.
Nicole, a.k.a. Nic, has long been an active leader in Northumberland County’s non-profit sector, but in the time of pandemic each of the roles she fills has taken on a new dimension. As a professional fundraiser who owns her own business, nicbea & co, she’s had to respond to rapidly changing client needs. As a Cobourg town councillor, she’s had to cope with virtual meetings and a sudden focus on emergency measures. As a project consultant for Thrive Northumberland, the coalition of agencies focused on supporting women and children experiencing domestic violence, she’s guided a team suddenly facing a time of increased vulnerability with no opportunity for in-person support. As Executive Director of Local Food for Local Good, she’s stepped up the pace to help feed low-income kids and families.
“It took a public health crisis to realize the barriers that were in place before. Seeing crises like food security, homelessness, and domestic violence colliding with pandemic has really shown us where the gaps unfortunately have always been,” Nic says.
Early on, Nic found herself sitting at the hospital while a loved one received testing and treatment for COVID-19. She asked herself, “What’s going to be my greatest contribution during this time?”
Surrounded by the specialized skills of health care workers, she knew she’d have to draw on her own set of strengths and skills: “I realized I can be a community connector, a liaison between organizations – and I understand how to navigate systems.”
She dove in right away, first by connecting Raymond Jones and Linds Nicole, two people she’d never met, who had both created Facebook groups to enable local people to offer practical help to each other.
What began as a conversation between three strangers became Caremongering-Northumberland County, an active, ongoing communication space on Facebook with nearly 3,000 participants, where topics range from requests for diapers or transportation to communications from local businesses regarding updates to their business models.
School closures revealed that many low-income families in Northumberland were reliant on Ontario’s Student Nutrition Program provided in schools. Through Local Food for Local Good, Nic created a rapid community response to that need. She tapped into various local agencies to connect with families, sourced donated boxes of fresh produce and food staples from Cobourg’s Market & Smør and hot meals from Food Inspired in Port Hope, and coordinated a fleet of volunteers who donate their time and fuel to deliver the food to families all over the county.
An average day in the new normal includes briefings and logistics, and something she calls “wellness calls” – checking in on local people living in seniors’ homes as well as keeping in contact with her own support network.
On a delivery day, Nic spends the afternoon decked out in a hand-sewn mask in a friendly farm animal print, loading up boxes full of fruit, vegetables, pasta and milk from the back door at Market & Smør into a line-up of waiting cars with volunteer delivery drivers, before heading out on her own route. Nic says the joy of the project is in knowing that the community’s needs are being met by community members.
“I’ve been amazed by how immediately adaptive our social systems have been, how generous individuals have been, how kind neighbours are,” she says. “Every day another bridge is built.”