Forced to cancel many of their signature events, club members went back to basics. Within days of lockdown orders, club members had organized volunteer grocery deliveries to transport essential goods between Foodland and vulnerable residents’ houses.
“For two months we delivered groceries free of charge for Foodland, about 60 deliveries a day, and we had volunteers both from within the club and through the overall sector,” Kin Member Doug Anthony said. “It certainly helped a lot of people who were fearful of going out because of COVID or just really couldn’t because of heart conditions.”
But the club’s actions did not stop at food deliveries. Since the pandemic started, members organized fundraising drives, competitions, and initiatives that successfully inspired the generosity of the community during a period when many had cut back on spending and expenses.
Anthony was the spokesman and public face of the club’s popular Catch the Ace lottery. Since the competition restarted in the second half of 2020, the club sold more than 120,000 tickets, raised $250,000 for local charities, and generated interest from the Quebec border to the Detroit River.
The province’s stay-at-home order forced the club to postpone the next draw to at least February 28, but Anthony said the competition’s success had stemmed from a combination of community generosity and innovative marketing. Prior to the first COVID lockdown, about 60 percent of Catch the Ace tickets were sold in person, while between 35 and 40 percent were bought online. By November, those ratios had flipped.
“People want to be safe when they’re purchasing,” Anthony said. “We’re finding a lot of people outside the area, and in the greater area are buying them. “We’ve got a huge following in Goderich, which is one of the furthest places away. We’re selling tickets in Severn and Windsor, Hamilton and Alexandria, and every part of Ontario now.”
The Kin Club used its network of charity and corporate partners, as well as a targeted marketing strategy over social media, to draw a larger audience and pool of contestants. Anthony estimated half of all sales came from Russell Township, with the remainder from the rest of the province.
Part of the draw to the competition was the yet to be won jackpot, which had ballooned to more than $180,000 at the time of the stay-at-home order. The next weekly prize was expected to be about $15,000. While the prizes were part of the interest, Anthony said a number of “regulars” had expressed their support for the Kin Club’s charitable causes.
“I send out messages to anyone who buys 10 tickets or more thanking them,” he said. “One person got back to me and said, ‘we’re doing it because of the causes, but it’s kind of cool that I have hope that I could win and that keeps me going every week’.
“I think it’s unheard of to have a jackpot that large in a township this small, for a township of 16 to 17,000 people to have a jackpot [of that size] is absolutely incredible.” Cystic Fibrosis Canada, Breast Cancer Action Ottawa, Osgoode Care Centre, Russell Minor Hockey Association, Valoris Foundation and Winchester District Memorial Hospital Foundation were among the charities Catch the Ace would benefit.
Between lottery draws, the club had organized new events to replace those rendered impossible by the pandemic. Fishing competition Poutmasters, a roast of Mayor Pierre Leroux, and a casino-themed gala night with an ABBA cover band were cancelled or postponed.
To help raise money for Embrun’s Good Neighbours Food Bank, the club organized a Christmas decoration competition that could be conducted while physically distant. Anthony said new Kin members were behind the competition, which gave them the chance to help out and boost the community’s spirits as COVID case numbers rose.
“We have 50 amazing volunteers who just love to help out in the community, so it’s fun watching them having a blast,” he said. “We’re doing whatever we can do to assist.”
Despite the hard work of club members, Anthony said they relied on the community itself for success. “This is one of the most generous communities I’ve ever lived in, and being in the RCMP I think I was transferred 14 times,” he said. “This is an extremely generous community. They give and they give, and the amount they give per capita is incredible.
“We want to thank those generous citizens and supporters.”