At Circle of Care, volunteers are the backbone of many of our programs that support ageing adults and their caregivers. Whether they are dropping off groceries or Meals on Wheels and saying a quick hello, calling our clients, checking in on their well-being, or providing much-needed supports when they are required, our volunteers’ actions help weave together a meaningful community at Circle of Care and beyond.
Below are stories showcasing the meaningful work our Circle of Care volunteers do in the community.
A Sentiment From Esther, a Circle of Care Client
Esther joined Circle of Care’s Phone Pals program after feeling isolated living at home by herself. She was paired with a volunteer who calls her each week to check-in and see how Esther is doing.
“I really enjoy speaking with her [my Phone Pal volunteer]. She is such a lovely person,” says Esther. “She is very reliable and considerate. She’ll even call me to tell me if she’ll be late in calling – or if she’s visiting family. Even when she’s visiting her daughter in Chicago, she’ll still call me.”
Through the Phone Pals program, volunteers are able to form deep and meaningful relationships with isolated older adults that help connect them back to the community.
Kathy, Hospice Volunteer
Kathy was an educator and principal in a Jewish Day School for 35 years. She retired early due to an autoimmune disease impairing her vision. But that didn’t stop her from supporting her community.
“I really wanted to continue giving back to the community, because that’s what I’ve done my whole life,” Kathy says. “Despite the disability, I thought that perhaps Circle of Care would have a program that I could contribute to.”
In 2021, Kathy joined Circle of Care’s volunteer team as a hospice volunteer. Every hospice volunteer must take a 30-hour training course in preparation for this role. Circle of Care provided alternative ways for this training for Kathy due to her vision impairment. In her role as a Hospice volunteer, Kathy provides comfort and emotional support to Hospice clients and their families as they navigate through the challenging time of end-of-life care.
“As a person in education, and a community leader, I know how important it is to stay connected. That’s why I think that it’s nice when you’re able to call or speak to someone and talk about their day,” she says. “Just that simple conversation with someone who is emotionally shut-in due to their situation can open up a window for them.”
For a few hours each week Kathy calls her assigned clients and checks-in with them.
“What I get back from it – from many people I speak to, it is just that one sentence: ‘you made me laugh today’ that gives me the knowledge it was a successful day.”
Lana, Virtual Programming, Bereavement and Hospice Volunteer
Lana is a champion in giving back and caring for the community. Before joining Circle of Care’s volunteer team, she led a ‘Caring Community’ at Temple Sinai Congregation of Toronto.
“When I was introduced to Circle of Care, I saw that there were even more opportunities in our wider community where I could be useful,” says Lana.
She joined Circle of Care’s bereavement counselling program as a volunteer in 2017 and soon became a hospice volunteer, emotionally supporting individuals facing a life limiting illness. She then went on to lead Jewish Holiday services for interested Circle of Care clients, including Holocaust Survivor clients. These services were held in-person initially, and then virtually during the pandemic. Lana also supported the community by leading other special programs for caregivers and Circle of Care staff and volunteers, such as ‘Powerful Tools for Caregivers’ and ‘Respond with Heart’. She also supports Circle of Care’s Meals on Wheels team by delivering meals to older adults, completing a downtown route with her husband.
“It’s ultimately all about the personal connection – however large or small,” says Lana. “When I deliver meals to people, I appreciate the chance to check-in on them, and they appreciate the care and concern we demonstrate in the thoughtful way things are done.”
Recently, Lana joined Circle of Care’s Volunteer team as a contract staff member to help promote the Meals on Wheels program in Circle of Care’s expanded boundaries.
“I have seen firsthand what an impact our deliveries make– and it’s not just about feeding people,” she says. “I have gotten to know clients on the route and have come to truly care about how they are doing. Our interactions aren’t therapy – just a check-in. But, a demonstration of care and concern means a lot.”
During her contract with Circle of Care, Lana helped deliver flyers to community centers, libraries, and senior centers. She also supported Circle of Care’s social media by sharing and creating awareness online in different groups.
“Volunteering is an important part of my life,” she says.
To this day, Lana continues to volunteer with Circle of Care helping weave together a stronger community by providing support to older adults.
Selma, Meals on Wheels, Phone Pal, and Adult Day Program Volunteer
As a retired Social Worker, Selma understands the importance of community and volunteers her time whenever she can.
“I have been acquainted with Circle of Care and its programs for a very long time,” she says. “When my kids were little and I wasn’t working, I helped deliver Meals on Wheels with my kids in the car and that was a great experience! So, I knew I wanted to get back to volunteering when I retired.”
Selma joined Circle of Care’s volunteer team in 2015 as a Meals on Wheels volunteer, delivering meals to older adults.
“With Meals on Wheels, I helped deliver meals to isolated people, and there were some people that I chatted to a little bit with at the door,” she says. “Though it’s not a visiting activity, it was always nice to have a quick chat with them.”
Selma heard that our Adult Day Program (ADP) needed some volunteers, so she decided to assist us in this program as well. This program supports individuals living with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, as well as frail older adults with little to no cognitive impairment, and also provides essential support for caregivers.
“The ADP has such a wonderful group of members and staff, and it’s a dynamic volunteer position,” says Selma. “The team is always open to new ideas and the staff is extremely professional with their clients – there’s a lot of respect for the clients. It’s all just very welcoming to me.”
At the Adult Day Program, Selma assists with tasks such as serving snacks and beverages, as well as prepping the pre-packaged meals for the clients’ lunch. She later took on the role as a group facilitator at the ADP, where a small group of clients would engage in social discussions.
“We sat around and talked about a particular human interest story that was in the newspaper, and people would share their experiences,” she says.
In 2020, volunteering with the ADP was put on hold due to the pandemic. But that didn’t stop Selma from continuing to give back to the community. She joined the Phone Pals volunteer program, where she began connecting to an isolated older adult weekly over the phone.
“My phone pal is great. He’s so nice, and is really appreciative. Though we’ve never met, there’s a feeling of being seen,” says Selma.
To this day, Selma continues to volunteer as a Phone Pal and at the Adult Day Program, providing essential and meaningful connections to older adults within the community.
Anna, Bereavement Volunteer
Anna joined Circle of Care’s volunteer team in 2017 as a hospice volunteer, after completing her hospice volunteer training. She then started her role as a home hospice volunteer supporting individuals facing a life threatening illness, which also lead to her position focusing on supporting individuals who had lost a loved one.
“I started to co-facilitate bereavement support groups where we hold space for the mourner to embrace their feelings of profound loss,” she says. “It is not to assess, analyze, fix, or resolve. It’s about being present, to give an ear to stories and experiences that may involve heavy sorrow.”
In these bereavement programs, the volunteers’ objectives are to educate on grief, create an emotional and physical space for the individual to grieve, and provide them with skills to help them move forward at their own pace.
Anna also assists Circle of Care’s Hospice Case Manager with facilitating a monthly Caring Cafe, a drop-in program open to all clients who have been through Circle of Care’s 8-week structured bereavement group. This program helps individuals through tough memorable days such as a loved one’s anniversary, birthday, or upcoming holidays.
“It is always an honour and privilege to hold space and to witness someone when they are at their most vulnerable,” she says. “The trust and courage people have in my presence gives me the desire to continue to give back in this capacity.”
Along with assisting with Circle of Care’s bereavement programs, Anna has been a Friendly Visitor at the Palliative Care Unit at Hennick Bridgepoint Hospital and provided meal support to specific patients as part of Circle of Care’s Sinai Health partnership. She was also very involved in an Improvement Committee to aid in building efficient processes and practices with the Hennick Bridgepoint Volunteer Department and Hennick Bridgepoint Palliative Care Unit.
With her passion for community, Anna held a peer support role for Circle of Care. She spent time calling other home hospice volunteers to gain insight on their relationships with clients and listen to their feedback, and provided a monthly report to our Volunteer Department.
“Whether it is a hospice client, palliative care patient, or grieving person, it is always a special relationship and bond that evolves, even though the topic may be death, dying, and bereavement, it can be a beautiful thing,” Anna says.