Normally, in March, the three locations of the Second Mile Club are bustling with members preparing for Spring, exercise classes, and, of course, the competitive game of bridge. The Club is a recreation centre for adults aged 55 and over, as well as those living with a disability. The Club also provides social work support for those who need it, often in their homes. For many, Second Mile Club is a lifeline – a way to stay connected with a community of friends.
But, this March looks very different for Second Mile Club.
Their physical doors have been closed since the pandemic began, helping keep members safe. The Club’s team quickly switched to digital services, now boasting an online schedule of over 20 classes, ranging from play readings to yoga, and regular calls to check in on members who are alone. While the services are helping, the pandemic has certainly had its effect on this community.
Sean Agard, Community Case Manager, Second Mile Club
Sean Agard is a community case manager. He helps Second Mile Club members maintain their independence through connecting them to services like free tax clinics. Agard is still helping his clients, but has found it more difficult: “I find that COVID has amplified problems especially with the shutdown, things that people would usually do to cope with the pandemic are no longer available.”
Although there has been physical isolation, Agard works hard every day to make sure his members know someone is still there for them: “I call members regularly to check-in and see where I can help. While we cannot solve every problem, we can be there to listen,” explains Agard.
Charlotte is a member of the Second Mile Club. She is retired and lives at Yonge and Eglinton.
"I used to love going to concerts but I don’t think I will be doing that or going to restaurant anytime soon," she explains.
Through this year, Charlotte has felt more stressed and a bit afraid to go outside for fear of getting COVID-19. But she stays in touch with family and friends through phone and video calls, waiting for the day she can hop on the GO train and visit them again.
For Charlotte, the regular check-ins from the Second Mile Club team have been so important: “I am grateful to have an organization apart of my life right now.” She also has found the classes like pilates and Friday’s virtual concerts have helped her stay active and connected.
“I think anyone even outside the city should really look into the Second Mile Club," urges Charlotte.
Dean, Member, Second Mile Club
For Dean, it’s dinner parties with friends and family that he misses most.
He has been part of the Second Mile Club since he volunteered there as a teen. Today, he often runs bridge classes at the Club -- in-person before the pandemic and now online.
His birthday last summer was particularly frustrating. “There were a couple of times when I would get annoyed that all people could talk about was COVID and the masks on my birthday as I was doing a zoom call with some friends last July,” says Dean.
Before COVID, Dean would take the TTC and go for long walks for exercise as well as to socialize. However, the pandemic has made that more difficult for him. But he still checks in on his Second Mile Club friends, especially those who do not use Zoom and may be feeling less connect.
Of course, Dean is still very active in the Club: “Without Second Mile, I would be bored; it is great we can all get together, even if just virtually.”
Second Mile Club is looking forward to opening their doors again, when it’s safe to do so. Until then, the whole community is taking care of each other, making sure no member is feeling left alone.
As Rebecca Buttigieg, day program manager of the Club shared,” It’s hard for everyone right now. For some older adults, their support networks change as they age, but Second Mile provides a place for everyone to make a family. And that’s what we’ve been doing this pandemic, taking care of each other, our found family.”