The value of one, the power of manyCelebrating National Volunteer Week 2021
By Carmen Marie Fabio
PHOTO COURTESY VSPCR
Taken before the COVID-19 outbreak, this group photo from a previous National Volunteer Week recognition event shows a cheque that indicates how many hours volunteers donated over the year – in this case, 22,700.
Vaudreuil-Soulanges Palliative Care Residence Volunteer Coordinator Susan Bednarski doesn’t hesitate when asked the question, “Could the residence function without all the work done by volunteers?”
“Absolutely not,” is her immediate and adamant reply.
Even now, in the time of a global pandemic, the volunteers – though fewer than before – are still putting in the hours at the VSPCR facility in Hudson, some on a daily basis. While the residence previously would welcome over 100 volunteers a week, the current pool is between 35 and 40 weekly but it hasn’t stopped the spirit of those who give their time to pitch in to make the work done by the 12-bed facility a little easier.
The volunteer program had been closed for several months early in 2020 as the residence took precautionary measures against COVID but health protection protocols are being strictly followed and the organization is running with its usual finesse.
While the typical age of the volunteers is 65 and over, Bednarski said a social engagement program at John Abbott College, run by English teacher Adil D'Sousa, has students spending an entire semester volunteering for various tasks at the VSPCR.
PHOTO COURTESY VSPCR
The Vaudreuil-Soulanges Palliative Care Residence would not be able to function without the hard work of its many volunteers including receptionist Suzanne Schiller (left) and Jim Laberge who’s there daily to aid the patients in choosing their daily meals and helping with the clean-up afterwards.
“They help with things like reception and housekeeping, including all the disinfection that’s needed.”
A helping hand is always welcome in the kitchen and while a chef is on staff to plan a weekly menu and cook the meals, volunteers help to prepare trays and with the clean-up afterwards.
Bednarski highlights volunteer Jim Laberge who is at the residence daily to consult with the chef about the menu and visit every patient to help them choose their meals.
Other tasks performed by volunteers include exterior work like gardening and grass cutting, and the Hudson Legion Branch 115 has been filling and maintaining the residence’s birdfeeders for several years. Others give their time to organize the fundraising galas and golf tournament that contribute a large portion of funds to the day-to-day operations of the VSPCR. With the pandemic putting a damper on these activities, the challenge is heightened to raise the necessary portion of the $1.8 million it takes to run the facility annually. The provincial government only supplies 35 per cent of the operating budget.
Without volunteers, our communities would be in crisis mode. It’s people giving of their unpaid time – an immensely precious resource – that allows organizations like NOVA Hudson to offer family health support and services to the community through money raised from their two boutiques on Main Road – one offering clothing and the other furniture and housewares – which are fully staffed by volunteers.
A short hop away you’ll find ‘The Bunker’ located in the basement of the War Memorial Library on Elm Street. The popular thrift shop, run by volunteers, re-opened for business in August of 2020 – a delay incurred by the median age of the volunteers, some of whom are over 70. Despite the challenges they soldier on and the funds they raise are distributed among the upstairs library, Le Pont/Bridging food bank, La Passerelle women’s shelter, and the VSPCR.
Located in Vaudreuil-Dorion, the Centre d'action bénévole L'Actuel is a non-profit which offers services to seniors, those who are ill, convalescent and disabled people, low-income families and individuals, and organizations. With a rotating group of roughly 250 volunteers and working in conjunction with various community development groups in the Vaudreuil-Soulanges region, their various programs are available to serve the over 153,000 residents in the region. Besides food and clothing assistance, services include medical transportation, tax clinics and help for parents of young children and infants. And, like their Hudson and West Island NOVA counterparts, their friperie located on Adèle Street is a popular spot for chic clothing and housewares at bargain prices.
Volunteer West Island offers an expansive range of services for area seniors – all manned by volunteers. From Meals on Wheels to animal therapy, the organization is adept at finding the perfect match for those willing to spare a few hours a week for those in need. The agency has also responded to the immediate needs that have cropped up in regards to the pandemic with a temporary emergency grocery provision initiative to assist seniors and other vulnerable populations unable to shop for themselves.
Says Community Relations Coordinator Kathleen Greenfield, “Despite the pandemic and what that brings to peoples’ schedules and ways of life, our volunteers have continued to make phone calls to isolated seniors three times a week. They haven’t missed a beat when maintaining contact and connection with seniors that are overwhelmed and isolated due to the virus. These volunteers are the superstars who are fighting this epidemic with a friendly chat and a kind heart. The best type of weapons!”
To see a video about the effects of the pandemic on West Island seniors by CRC (Community Resource Centre), see www.youtube.com/watch?v=pc6UEYFxQhw.
If you require more information or if you’d like to volunteer, consult: