EDMONTON -- A Spruce Grove woman is collecting used phones and tablets in an effort to keep the elderly connected with their loved ones during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since lockdowns started, many people living in assisted living facilities and long-term care homes have been kept from seeing their families.
"They couldn't receive pictures or letters because of contamination reasons, so the biggest thing is that they weren't getting to see their family and that they would love to have some devices," said Emily Jenks.
Jenks had two unused devices in a drawer at home, and she put out the call on social media looking for more. That's how Project Joy started, Jenks partnered with a few businesses in Edmonton to collect and distribute technology to those who need it most right now.
"A lot of people have unused devices, older devices when they upgrade their drawers or cupboard," said Jenks.
She managed to donate a dozen devices to Copper Sky Lodge last week. The facility has 133 residents, ranging in age from 34 to 101.
"Without the devices we wouldn't have been able to make the connections we've made in the past week," said Joannie Robertson, the Recreational Therapy Manager at the lodge.
"I'm really excited that it kind of exploded in some ways, and we may be able to help even more seniors," said Jenks.
Project Joy Technical Manager Jay-Dee Netter says the program is helping keep devices out of the landfill, while reconnecting seniors with family, so it's win-win for everyone.
There are restrictions on what types of devices can be donated, and laptops are not being accepted because they are harder to sanitize.
"They can simply wipe down the phone or tablet and hand it to the resident, whereas with a laptop, it's just a little more cumbersome," said Netter.
Robertson says the donated devices have had a huge impact on resident's families.
"To even connect on FaceTime or with Google Duo, or even sending pictures through email, makes a big difference."
Jenks named the initiative Project Joy after her Grandmother who passed away in 2013. She says she can't imagine what others are going through, being forced to stay away from their loved ones.
"So being able to connect the seniors and the families as well who must be quite nervous with everything that's going on in care centres and facilities, it gives them a little bit of comfort I hope," said Jenks.
Information on how to donate, volunteer or request devices can be found at projectjoy.ca.
With files from CTV News Edmonton's Amanda Anderson.