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A female police officer stands next to a man outside his residence surrounded by deep snow.

Bingo connects northern town during COVID-19

RCMP Cpl. Cara Streeter helped assemble and deliver 60 food packs for participants of a radio bingo game in Paulatuk, N.W.T. Credit: RCMP


To combat loneliness and unease among some Elders and seniors in Paulatuk, N.W.T., during the pandemic, the RCMP helped organize a bingo game broadcast over the town's radio system.

The event helped to lift people's spirits and give them a chance to feel connected with friends and neighbours.

"A social event is just what we needed around here," says Ray Ruben, mayor of the fly-in community of about 300 people. "I think it lifted everyone — spiritually and mentally."

Cpl. Cara Streeter, detachment commander at Paulatuk, got the bingo balls rolling in April when she applied to a United Way program that offered $5,000 to support communities during the pandemic.

The money was used to assemble 60 food packs with items such as bread, coffee, eggs, fruit, soup and healthy snacks for Elders and seniors who participated in the game, held on May 27.

"The cost of food up North is a big issue, so we wanted to provide something they could enjoy and use on the land," says Streeter. "The Northern Store was also instrumental in this process, opening early and helping my partner (Cst. Jeff Gallant) and I put together the food packs."

The Government of Canada's New Horizon's Seniors Program also supported the event, which included five individual prizes of either baking, fishing, toiletries or sewing packs.

There was also a prize of on-the-land items including a tarp, camping mugs and utensils, outdoor working gloves and matches.

Streeter served as the caller for the "Boost your Spirits Radio Bingo" event.

"I think things went well. Calling the bingo game live was a new experience and exciting," she says. "Even though we were distant from each other, we still felt connected," she says.

The grand prize of a $200 Northern Store gift card was also awarded during the event.

Although no COVID-19 cases have been found in the community and only a handful of cases have been reported in the Northwest Territories, Ruben says people still want to make sure the respiratory virus stays out of Paulatuk.

"People have to fly in and out of the community for a variety of reasons," he says. "So we still have to be vigilant and careful."

He added the bingo game's timing was perfect.

"A few of our public places have been closed and fewer people are going out, so this was an opportunity for Elders to reconnect," Ruben says.

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