Many Montreal community organizations are successfully turning to the Web

By adapting to deliver their services virtually through communication tools such as Zoom and Crowdcast, organizations have shown remarkable agility.

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Any other year, they would have sipped tea together at the table, with some of the women sporting fancy hats or fascinators. The COVID-19 pandemic, of course, means it’s not another year. For example, the Contactivity Center summer tea party was held online via the Zoom videoconferencing application. In a nod to tradition, some of the women among the 41 attending the June event still wore fancy headdresses.


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Before COVID, the Mount Sinai Hospital Literary Book Review Club met in a community hall and had breakfast together. Breakfast has been on hiatus since the club moved their reviews to Zoom earlier this year, but they have drawn participants from as far away as Scotland and Tennessee. Last week’s review, which kicked off the club’s 17th season, drew 365 people, almost 50% more than usual. Among them were a few who, for health reasons, could not have attended in person.

“The world is our audience,” said Ellen Fabian, who, along with Sheila Lackman, chairs The Book Club, a fundraiser for the Côte-St-Luc Hospital.

A screenshot of some of the 41 attendees at a Contactivity Tea Time with the Team event held on Zoom in June.
A screenshot of some of the 41 attendees at a Contactivity Tea Time with the Team event held on Zoom in June. Photo courtesy Mary Stark, Contactivity

The transition from AMI-Québec, Action on mental illness support groups, workshops and virtual in-person counseling sessions that none had to be canceled. “We haven’t missed a beat,” said Executive Director Ella Amir.


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Three in-person support groups were scheduled for Monday March 16; the decision to hold them by phone was taken on March 13. People who phoned Monday were connected to their groups as part of a conference call hosted by the host, said AMI-Quebec program coordinator Marc Griffin. The groups, which then switched to videoconferencing, went off without a hitch.

By adapting to offer their services virtually using communication tools such as Zoom, Google Meet, Crowdcast and Facebook Live, Montreal community organizations have shown remarkable agility.

While AMI-Quebec staff mobilized to move the programs online, “the first two months we didn’t get much sleep,” Griffin said. For director Amir, “the way we’ve been able to ramp up and keep a keen sense of purpose has been so gratifying. In very unusual circumstances, we operate as usual. “


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Says Lynn Verge, General Manager of Montreal Atwater Library and Computer Center: “The COVID shutdown has prompted more and more of us to do more and more online, whether it’s for shopping, communicating with friends, or learning online. “

As library activities including poetry readings, financial literacy presentations, and digital literacy workshops shifted to Zoom and Crowdcast, staff helped those with computer or device issues.

At Contact Center for seniors, classes ranging from French conversation to exercise and workshops on bird watching to storytelling rotated on Zoom, as well as concert and guest speaker programs. Outreach programs have included registration with members over the phone.

“We exist to break the isolation,” said executive director Mary Stark. “We had to pivot, but it was a great opportunity. “


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In a Contactivity project funded by a New horizons for seniors grant confirmed last week, several tablets are loaned to seniors who have never been connected and who will learn how to use them.

As part of an intergenerational visiting program funded by the Ottawa Department of Education Canadian heritage , students at Selwyn House School began visiting Contactivity members last fall, and when the pandemic took hold, the visits moved online. They have a social component, of course, but the students also provide technical assistance.

Two Selwyn House high school students who have been visiting Cannie Stark online since March “are really a bright spark to me in this somewhat dark thing that we are going through,” she said.


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“It’s very exciting and rewarding. I know that twice a week I will have contact with a younger generation. I learn from them and they learn from me.

She credits the students with the fact that “I’m now almost familiar with Zoom – and Zoom has opened up a whole new world to me. “

The students coached her first by phone and then online and “practicing with these guys with Zoom means I can communicate more directly with my colleagues,” said Stark, a retired college professor who sits on a committee. ethics whose meetings, like so many others, have moved to Zoom.

Among the recent Jewish public library programs was a virtual screening in May with other organizations of the German film When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, followed by an online discussion. A main event in June featured Norman Lebrecht, author of the novel The Song of Names, speaking from London.


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“One bright side is that we’ve expanded our programs to the US, Europe, UK and Israel,” said Roxana Brauns, director of cultural events at the library.

Despite the success of the online hub, most of the leaders of these community organizations are eagerly awaiting when in-person activities resume.

“My feeling is that what the Atwater Library really excels in is bringing people together physically to learn, socialize and connect with the community,” said Verge. “There is no substitute for this.”

  1. Sheila Lackman, left, and Ellen Fabian, are co-chairs of the Mount Sinai Literary Breakfast Club, which has 250 members and whose book review and breakfast gatherings have raised nearly $ 250,000 for the hospital .  (John Mahoney / GAZETTE DE MONTREAL)

    Mount Sinai Hospital Book Club Celebrates 15th Anniversary and $ 250,000 Raised

  2. Diana Henry volunteers for the community seniors organization Contactivity, shopping for seniors who cannot do their own shopping due to health issues related to COVID-19.

    Shopping so that seniors can stay at home, wherever Quebec wants them


Learn more about AMI-Quebec at ; the Atwater library at; the Contactivity Center at; the Jewish Public Library of .

The 2020-21 review season on Zoom du Mount Sinai Hospital Literary Book Review Club is by subscription, at $ 118; sponsorship, with tax receipt, is $ 154. Call 514-369-2222, extension 1337.

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