When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Chelsea Taylor, a youth member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, decided to volunteer in her community of Foothills, Alberta. She quickly discovered that in-person volunteering was going to be a challenge. So instead, she wrote a book — “IMPACT” — to benefit the Okotoks Foodbank.
“It was hard to find a way to serve in the typical ways because of all the restrictions,” Taylor remembers. “I decided to write a book so that people would have a chance to share their stories. I thought it was a good way to document what was happening.”
“IMPACT” is a collection of stories about how COVID-19 has changed people in Foothills, Alberta. Taylor interviewed people in her community and learned about their stories and struggles. She turned the interviews into an ebook and then designed a website where anyone can download the book and make a donation to the Okotoks Foodbank.
Taylor decided to donate all the money raised from “IMPACT” to the Okotoks Foodbank specifically to help purchase a delivery truck. The food bank is the main distribution hub for the entire Foothills community. With the purchase of a truck, clients in rural areas can access the food bank’s services more directly.
“I felt the food bank was a good choice because they can provide immediate relief for lots of people in the Foothills,” Taylor says.
Pamela McLean, director of the Okotoks Foodbank, says Taylor is a young person with a voice to be heard. “When Chelsea contacted me with her idea about her COVID-19 book, I was amazed at the compassion and composure exhibited by one so young,” McLean explains. “Her desire to help the Okotoks Foodbank serve even more people in the community by helping to raise funds for the purchase of a delivery truck is commendable.”
Member of Parliament John Barlow was interviewed for the book. He says the essence of what Taylor did was remarkable. “For Chelsea to take this on so early on, she really was ahead of the curve,” Barlow recalls. “You can’t help but get emotional when you hear these stories. I think she articulated the emotions of what people were going through really well.”
Barlow also says he admires Taylor’s ability to see a need in the community and develop a way to make it better. “It’s unique, and Chelsea did such a great job of capturing a moment in our time,” Barlow says. “For her to put some of these stories down and capture them forever, she is clearly doing an incredible service to our community.”
One of the most difficult challenges of the pandemic has been the effect it has on school-aged children. With schools closed and students adjusting to online learning, “IMPACT” also looks at the complex realities educators face.
Taylor remembers her interview with the Foothills School Division and says she wanted to capture what was at stake. “One of the school board members reminded me that school is more than just a place to learn; it’s also a safe place for many vulnerable kids,” Taylor recalls. “It’s the place they go to for food and comfort, and it was all taken away. I felt this was important to remember.”
Foothills School Division Superintendent Chris Fuzessy says that when Taylor contacted him about being interviewed for the book, he decided to include her in an executive team meeting with the division.
Fuzessy says having Taylor in the meeting was memorable. “I cannot emphasize enough the quality of the questions she asked; they were phrased in such a way that really forced us to do that reflection piece,” Fuzessy recalls. “I was very challenged by the questions. It was a great opportunity for us to take a step back and reflect on what we were doing and why.”
Fuzessy also says Taylor’s undertaking was ambitious, and he was impressed that someone in the school community would see such an opportunity.
“The book is a retrospective of our community challenges,” Fuzessy says. “Being able to look back years from now and understand from the lived and human perspective what people’s challenges were and how they overcame them — there’s a theme of hope in the book.”
Fuzessy made sure the school division purchased 50 copies of “IMPACT,” and now every school in the division has a copy.
Taylor says she is now looking forward to finishing high school and plans to attend university. She hopes her book will live up to its name and continue to make an “IMPACT.”
The book “IMPACT” is available at covidfoothills.com.