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Volunteer-Written Words of Inspiration

In celebration of National Volunteer Week two of our volunteers share stories about others who generously contribute their time and hearts to Circle of Care’s clients. Lois Kalchman and Yvonne Siegel use their own words to tell the genuine stories of fellow volunteers.

    Annette Till – Friendly Visiting & Meals on Wheels Volunteer
    Written by: Lois Kalchman

    Annette Till - Quote

    There is no doubt Annette Till enjoys the time she spends while visiting her client or delivering Meals on Wheels every Monday.

    “She is a gift to me,” Annette says of the woman she visits for three or four hours a week. “I take her out to beautiful places she may not usually go and we schmooze a lot. “

    Initially, it was not an easy pairing. The client is from Romania and does not speak English and Annette does not speak her language. But, believe it or not, they communicate through Latin using root words, and eventually her client translates the words into Yiddish.

    Annette explains that it is ‘like watching a computer’ as she describes how the woman understands her.

    “It goes from my words…to Latin..to Romanian and eventually she understands what I am saying.

    “She does have a son and one very good friend in the city,” she says of her charge. “But I feel she is a close friend and I love her.”

    Annette has worked with seniors throughout her whole earning career as well.

    “I had no relationship with my grandparents and it was a big void in my life,” she admits. “They lived in Europe and I only saw them once. When I retired, I wanted to have a relationship that I felt I had missed and this is it.”

    Meals on Wheels is not too different for her as she knocks on the doors and delivers to her regular clients.

    “They wait for me,” she says. “Many are Russian. I get to see eight or nine regulars every week and if they speak Yiddish, I speak to them in Yiddish…my broken Yiddish.”

    Annette sees herself as a person who has a mission in life “to bring joy to others.”

    Obviously, she is fulfilling that inner passion with the people in our Jewish community.

    Carol Wiener – Let’s Get Together Volunteer
    Written by: Lois Kalchman

    Carol Wiener - Quote

    “Let’s Get Together” is the upbeat program at Circle of Care in which Carol Wiener is a volunteer.

    “It’s for seniors who come once a month,” she says and you can hear the joy in her voice. “It’s a win-win situation and I love it.

    “The Wednesday group has about a dozen people while the Thursday group has up to 20,” she says of the two once-a-month sessions. Some participants come with a caregiver. Carol divulges that one lady is going to be 111 years young. “They have free transportation and a free lunch.”

    She suggests that the majority of the clients simply appreciate being out and socializing. Circle of Care may hire the entertainment or the group will play bingo or do other things.

    Carol considers the best programs to be music-based, when different artists are hired and play Yiddish songs or Broadway tunes.

    She says she chose Circle of Care because she enjoys being with seniors and wanted to give back to the community. She cannot believe how terrific she feels following each session.

    “I love it,” she said. “The clients appreciate it. They are friendly and make me feel warm and wanted….perhaps ‘special’. Actually, when I finish I feel that I get back more than I give.

    “The clients talk to me and I get to know them on a personal level,” she reveals. “They share their stories and I try to give them encouragement. With the regulars, it is like meeting a friend.

    “There are things you wouldn’t say to your family or don’t want to burden your kids with and sometimes it is just easier to talk to a stranger,” she said.

    There is no doubt Carol Wiener considers her job a joy.

    Elaine Bisgould – Kosher Meals on Wheels Captain
    Written by: Lois Kalchman

    Elaine Bisgould - Quote

    Elaine Bisgould started volunteering with Meals on Wheels to pull herself out of her ‘funk’.

    When she retired from decades of teaching at the Associated Hebrew Schools, she found her afternoons boring. For the past 8 years she has worked as a captain for Meals on Wheels.

    “It gives me the feeling that I am doing something worthwhile,” she says. “They needed a captain on Thursdays and it was a way to fill my days.”

    Being a captain is not easy. It requires the person to be at Baycrest by 7:00 a.m., prepare the bags to be filled and mark out the routes for the volunteer drivers who come from 8:30 on. Over three years ago, Elaine’s husband passed away, and she also took on Tuesdays.

    “Now I go in about four days a week,” she says, adding how she often pops in on Mondays and Wednesdays to prepare for her bags and routes for the next morning.
    Interestingly, she claims that every week day has its own personality.

    “I love going in early,” she says. “The drivers are so friendly and upbeat. There is a camaraderie in meeting and talking to people.”

    She differentiates the atmospheres.

    Thursday’s people come in early and like to shoot the breeze and have coffee while Tuesday’s drivers just pick up their meals and leave.

    If there aren’t enough drivers, she pitches in and delivers meals as well.

    Some drivers will make a client’s day by simply asking “how are you doing?” or listening to their stories.

    It is not unusual for drivers to become attached to a person after months of bringing them food and cheer.

    She truly enjoys her hours. She used to bring her teenage grandchildren with her but as they got older, she claims they are now not so eager for a 7:00 a.m. start to their day.

    As if that is not enough, Elaine also volunteers once a week in her daughter’s classroom. Volunteering with Meals on Wheels has brought a fulfillment into Elaine’s life.

    In spite of the early starts and days spent, the 75-year-old former teacher experiences a satisfaction as a volunteer in the Jewish Community.

    Erin Clamen – Social Group Volunteer
    Written by: Yvonne Siegel

    Erin Clamen - Quote

    Erin Clamen started volunteering as a social group volunteer because it was a way for her to combine her skills in group facilitation with her experience as a recreational therapist. She also loves working with older adults.

    “Volunteering has been a great way for me to enhance and strengthen my skills, and learn new skills as well,” Erin says.

    Erin runs a weekly hour-long social group at an Assisted Living facility.

    “The group members are usually in the lobby to greet me when I get there,” she says. “They’ve taken an avid interest in me and my life. I feel the same way about them.”

    With the group, Erin runs activities include music, discussions, and monthly birthday celebrations.

    “There’s a lot of sharing. Memories make for great conversation.”

    Erin finds her work to be the extremely interesting and rewarding. “I leave feeling happy that I have spent time making their lives more interesting and bright.”

    Lana Rottenberg – Community Hospice Volunteer
    Written by: Lois Kalchman

    Lana Rottenberg - quote

    Lana Rottenberg believes she is putting her faith into action as a volunteer in the Visiting Hospice Program, where she spends four hours weekly with someone nearing the end of their life.

    “As a Jewish person, this program allows me to put the words I pray in the synagogue and the values I believe in into action,” she adds. “It is rewarding to engage the mind in study but this is heart to heart work.”

    “When I visit, they can say anything they need to say,” she says of her clients, who sometimes cannot articulate their fears and hopes to family members or friends. “I feel I am helping them sort out some of their thoughts and feelings as their life is coming to a close.”

    The majority of Lana’s work is one on one, and occasionally she fills in for other Circle of Care Hospice volunteers.

    “I am visiting with one lady now, and we’ve developed a close relationship over a number of months. I know she is benefitting from our visits. But sometimes clients pass away after we’ve only just gotten to know each other. That’s harder. But even then, I feel I’ve made a difference.”

    Lana has been an active volunteer for many years including serving as chair of Temple Sinai’s “Caring Community” which offers rides and other types of support to its congregants.

    Many Canadians consider sickness and death as private family business.

    “But the importance of the role of outsiders should not be discounted,” she says. “In fact, Circle of Care is developing a new program, to reach out to the bereaved families of their clients. This is a great opportunity for us to offer support, a continuation of support really, to those suffering in grief.”

    Lana admits that Hospice visiting is not for everyone but there is no doubt she loves it. Through the program, she is able to satisfy her need to reach out and truly make a difference – heart to heart, one person at a time.

    Lisa Sugar – Musical Entertainment
    Written by: Yvonne Siegel

    Lisa Sugar - Quote

    Lisa Sugar started volunteering with Circle of Care’s Adult Day program (ADP) a few years ago, when her uncle was a client.

    While her uncle no longer attends the program, Lisa continues to volunteer her musical talents. “Music can really spark the memory of those suffering from Alzheimer’s,” she says. “Knowing I can put a smile on someone’s face is something I look forward to.”

    Once a month, Lisa is joined by two other volunteers, who perform a 45 minute musical set for the ADP clients.

    “They really look forward to seeing us,” Lisa says. “They’re so happy when we come.”

    Lisa and her fellow volunteers engage the clients by getting them involved in the performance. They encourage them to sing along to the chorus of familiar songs.

    “We perform the same collection of songs each time because repetition is important,” Lisa explains. “But I try to throw in a few new songs each time as well.”

    Lisa is encouraged by the response she gets from the clients. “They ask us to sing certain songs, which shows me that they remember. That makes me smile. It’s an honour and privilege to volunteer with ADP at Circle of Care.”

    Sally Gustin – Community Hospice Volunteer
    Written by: Lois Kalchman

    Sally Gustin - Quote

    Sally Gustin refers to her Circle of Care volunteer hospice client visits as deposits in her own emotional bank account.

    “It’s very rewarding,” says Sally, who has volunteered in many different places throughout the years. “The work is very much appreciated by the clients and their families. People should have choices at the end of their lives. Maybe I will be in that situation at some point.”

    “I took the eight-week course last spring,” she says. “I have two clients now and visit each once a week and do whatever they need.”

    She spends three hours with a client, or whatever time they need. She explains that it is quite difficult when a person devotes him or herself to caregiving for a family member and may not be able to do anything for themselves. For one client, she provides relief so the caregiver can run errands or go to appointments.

    “Each case is different,” she says. “In one case, the client has an extended family and in another there is no one.”

    “I can take out a client – we can go for walks and then the caregiver has a chance to do whatever is needed for him or herself and not worry. In another home, we have a nice routine. I may sweep the floor, make breakfast and do light housekeeping, whatever helps them.”

    “You do get attached,” she says of the hours she volunteers. “But they are so thankful.”

    She admits when a client dies it can be emotional. “It can be sad,” she says. “But [the time we spend together] is so valued by the clients and death is part of life, after all.”

    For Sally, it is time well spent. Just the visiting, the involvement with people who need and want her is the reward that makes her feel content.