Gang of Edmonton-area grannies tackle tech to raise money for AIDS relief

Author of the article: Ashley Joannou The Edmonton Journal Publishing date: Oct 04, 2020  •

Lauretta Howard with her knitted animals for GANG's on line store. Taken on Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020 in Edmonton.     Greg Southam-Postmedia
Lauretta Howard poses Oct. 3, 2020 with her knitted animals for GANG’s online store. PHOTO BY GREG SOUTHAM /Postmedia

A group of Edmonton-area grannies put their technical skills to the test to be able to continue sending money to other grandmothers in Africa despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Makers and Shakers Market craft sale, put on by the Edmonton GANG (Grandmothers of Alberta for a New Generation) and the East Side Grannies of Sherwood Park, has run every October since 2018.

When COVID-19 forced the cancellation of the physical event this year, the grandmothers (and grand-others who don’t have grandkids themselves) took on the challenge of learning how to run an online store.

GANG member Janice Pelletier said the group has had the option for an online store as part of its website for years but only used it once, with limited success.

“So, the committee said, ‘You know what, maybe it’s time for us to jump into this online store, and maybe we shouldn’t be so scared,’” she said.

Both groups are members of the Stephen Lewis Foundation’s Grandmothers to Grandmothers campaign. Money they raise supports grandmothers in Africa caring for their grandchildren whose parents have died from complications of AIDS.

The market alone raised more than $12,000 in 2018 and more than $15,000 in 2019.

The GANG, one of the early groups to join Grandmothers to Grandmothers when it was created in 2006, has raised more than a million dollars through various fundraisers since its inception.

One of the early GANG members, Judy Dube, said that along with money, the goal is to raise awareness about how grandmothers are stepping up when they’re needed.

“When my grandson went home, I could sit down and have a rest, at least for 10 minutes, you know? And if I ran out of milk, well, I knew I could get some at the store. That wasn’t the situation these grandmothers in Africa were in,” she said.

The group was able to use some federal grant money to pay for training videos on how to work the online store.

“It’s everything from, you know, how do you load the product on? How do you get the pictures up? How do you describe things? Which of the 42 buttons on the side do you press?” Pelletier said.

The website had its first month online in September. New goods are being added every week and the grandmas say it will remain open for the foreseeable future.

First Zoom board meeting

Everyone’s technical prowess is improving. The group even held its recent board meeting via Zoom.

Pelletier said one of the group’s 86-year-old members spent hours on the computer figuring out how to fill out the form to describe her handmade toys and then upload a photo.

“I was so impressed when I heard how much time she spent at 86 years old, teaching herself how to do this to support this ongoing work,” she said.

About 15 to 20 members from the GANG and the East Side Grannies have provided high-end crafts ranging from toys and art to Christmas crafts and home decor.

The online store does not offer delivery. Shoppers have to be able to pick up their items either in west Edmonton or Sherwood Park.

For more information visit: edmgrandmothers.org

ajoannou@postmedia.com

twitter.com/ashleyjoannou

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