KITCHENER -- Best Friends of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Waterloo Region have been adapting to pandemic restrictions to continue supporting those in need.

Marueen Innes has been a volunteer for the community group for the last 18 of the 33 years they’ve been operating.

She says her passion for giving back started long before she was a member.

“I was a teacher and I had kids that had big brothers and big sisters,” she said. “I saw the good that they did for those kids and their families.”

The volunteer group has raised more than $1 million to support the Big Brothers – Big Sisters programming, which provides mentoring to children and youth in need.

The pandemic has put a pause on the annual in-person fundraisers, but Innes says this has only pushed them to find new ways to give back.

“Instead of just waiting to see what might happen, we decided to brainstorm and see how we can make some money,” the president of the group said. “Even if it’s not as much as we had been making, it’s money to give to the programs.”

This spurred the idea for the Fundrive Campaign, an initiative to collect clothing and houseware donations that are sold online at garage sales, in order to raise funds.

“The Best Friends have been so innovative,” said Julie Phillips, the CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters Waterloo Region. “They also have a Facebook marketplace for items they know they can generate more money with.

“They are being so creative. It’s truly a blessing to our agency.”

The second fundrive was supposed to wrap up next weekend, but has bene extended to May 15 due to the stay-at-home order.

Innes says they were able to collect over 9,000 pounds worth of donations during their last fundrive in March.

They’re hoping to collect 14,000 pounds and $3,000 during the extended fundraiser.

“If we’re able to continue to get the community to donate then I think we’re just going to keep repeating this,” said Louise Conners-Surnoskie, co-chair of the fundrive committee.