• James Armstrong

Recruiting volunteers for Vaudreuil-Soulanges Palliative Care Residence


PHOTO BY JAMES ARMSTRONG

Kitchen camaraderie is all part of a day working and volunteering at the Vaudreuil-Soulanges Palliative Care Residence team for chef Sharon Vince (left) and volunteers Alex Shandling (centre) and Christine Agnew (right).

The Vaudreuil-Soulanges Palliative Care Residence (VSPCR) has launched a recruitment campaign containing a modern component to help recruit volunteers. To answer many of the questions raised by potential volunteers, VSPCR has created a series of 10 video clips that will be posted on their website.

“We will be publishing them two at a time,” said Communications Officer Josée Descôteaux, “and we will be letting people know through social media when they are posted.”

The clips, ranging in length from 40 seconds to two minutes, feature current volunteers and employees answering questions and giving a thumbnail sketch of their experience at the VSPCR. Two of the 10 clips will be in English.

Volunteer motivation

As Volunteer Coordinator Susan Bednarski put it, people volunteer to give back to the community, break out of personal isolation, or develop a new skill set. Currently, the residence has approximately 225 volunteers who help with patient care, reception, kitchen, maintenance, laundry, administration, gardening, event planning and more. They range in age from 16 to 87 and new volunteers receive 12 hours of training when they join the team.

Experiencing service

“I started as a volunteer two years ago,” said chef Sharon Vince who heads up the kitchen team. Christine Agnew, who was volunteering on the kitchen team, said she got involved because, “I wanted to spread a little kindness in a world that seems full of animosity.”

Others, like Alex Shandling, decide to lend a hand because of their personal experience of the services provided by a palliative care residence.

“My dad was in a palliative care residence in Toronto and the care he received was amazing. I wanted to give something back,” she said. Shandling has been involved in the kitchen team for three years, every Wednesday. The same holds true for Peter Lyons who was working at the reception desk. He’s been volunteering since 2014 and was motivated by the care his wife received while she was a patient at the residence.

“It is wonderful what they do here,” he said.

Supportive community

“There’s no actual limit to the number of volunteers we need,” said Bednarski when asked if the campaign has a goal in terms of the number of volunteers recruited. With the many areas and tasks and the three shifts per day, seven days per week schedule, balancing it out with volunteer availability has challenges.

“It doesn’t matter how many volunteers you have if no one is available on a particular day,” said Bednarski with a laugh. She pointed out that situations rarely arise because of the dedication of the volunteers.

“We have been incredibly supported by the volunteers,” she said, “and our retention rate for volunteers is very high compared to other organizations.”

Long-term service

Many of the volunteers have been with the residence since September 2010 when it was officially inaugurated.

“I love what I do here,” said massage therapist Ramsey Hislop who has been providing massage for patients, volunteers and staff every Wednesday since 2010. Similarly, Jim Laberge has been a volunteer since the beginning. He’s currently involved in patient care but has worked in other areas of the Residence.

“People start out in one area because they have an interest in that activity but later, they may want to move to something else and that’s good,” said Bednarski. Micheline MacDermott who has been volunteering at the VSPCR for close to three years summed it up, “This is a noble endeavor.”

For further information regarding VSPCR and the volunteer campaign, visit their website at www.mspvs.org/en/.

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