A new volunteer group in Abbotsford is providing at-home deliveries of books and puzzles for seniors and others who have difficulties leaving their home.
The Book Bags was created by Pamela Chatry, a businesswoman, coach and previous president of the local Business and Professional Women’s Association. She is also a board member of Archway Community Services.
Chatry came up with the idea after her 89-year-old mom, who is an avid reader, moved into an independent living facility last July in the midst of the pandemic.
Due to COVID-19 regulations, the facility was required to remove the library that was located on each floor.
The facility instead introduced a weekly book exchange, but due to health issues, Chatry’s mom found it difficult to make her way to the office for the exchange.
Chatry then began delivering a monthly bag of books to her mom, choosing authors and titles that she knew her mom would like. Every month, Chatry would swap those books for a new selection.
Chatry also began doing the same thing for a friend of her mom’s who also has mobility issues.
She began thinking about others who live in their own apartments or homes and are often unable to get out.
“I started asking others if they were facing the same issues with their elderly parents. There were many stories like mine. It appeared that COVID has increased isolation and the ability to access reading and ‘quiet entertainment’ items,” she said.
She did some research and found out there was no existing service in Abbotsford providing free home delivery of books.
“As a lover of books, it seems unthinkable to me that there are readers out there who have nothing to read,” she said.
Chatry began discussing her concerns with a small group of close friends – Edie Hayden, Arlene Simpson and Caitlin Eyles – who fully supported the formation of such a service.
At first, the group donated items from their own book and puzzle collections, and purchased several books on an online bidding site.
Since launching in January, the group has now been able to access books as needed through the Rotary Club of Chilliwack, which holds the second largest book sale in western Canada each year and has a full warehouse of items.
They are connected to seniors in need through services such as the Better at Home program and Meals on Wheels, which pass along information flyers from The Book Bags.
The group now has about a dozen people they deliver to once a month. All donations are quarantined for three days and sorted with gloves on.
Books are dropped off and retrieved once a month in a no-contact manner – either at the reception area or at the door – and volunteers wear masks and keep their distance.
Chatry said the group wants to get the word out to more readers.
As demand grows, more volunteers will be needed to help pick out books, stuff bags and make deliveries.
Also welcome are donations of clean and gently used books, puzzles and magazines (National Geographics are popular). Books in large-print and audio format are particularly needed.
Chatry said The Book Bags hopes to expand its service to families and youth in need, and donations of young-adult and children’s books are appreciated.
The group is also looking for a donor to provide washable canvas bags, upon which their name and logo could be added.
A registration form to receive books can be found online at thebookbags.ca or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Those interested can also call Pamela at 778-856-8970.
Anyone interested in volunteering or who wants to make a donation can email or phone for further details.