The National Volunteer Week theme for 2021, The Value of One, The Power of Many, reflects on the awe-inspiring acts of kindness by millions of individuals AND the magic that happens when we work together towards a common purpose. This past year, we have seen people supporting family, friends, neighbours, and strangers, people standing up to systemic racism, and people sharing insights on how to create a more just and equitable society. We recognize the value of the caring and compassion that each one has shown another, and we recognize the power of people, organizations, and sectors working together.
In celebration of National Volunteer Week, the Halton Volunteer Impact Award is representative of the importance and impact of the roles of volunteers across Halton during 2020. Eight recipients has been selected, two from each Halton municipalities: City of Burlington, Town of Halton Hills, Town of Milton, and Town of Oakville.
These are their amazing, selfless, and inspiring volunteer stories.
Tom Nicol volunteer with Open Doors at St. Christopher’s
Meals Delivered with Dignity
Tom has been a volunteer for Open Doors at St. Christopher’s since its inception and has been an invaluable team member in 2020 during the pandemic. Tom’s volunteer talents are gifted to us through several different avenues. He weekly volunteers in the kitchen to help prep over 200 warm meals that Open Doors distribute to the community members. He is the first to show up and the last to leave each week. He is careful in the ways he prepares the food, keeping constant vigil on the dignity in which it is handled and delivered.
Tom always asks if there is anything else we need help with before he leaves the building. He regularly offers to pick up donations from community partners or orders from suppliers.
Tom is a member of Open Doors Foodbank Renovation team, helping oversee the project and provide mentoring to staff experiencing a project this size for the first time. Tom has been active in training others new COVID protocols when access to the building has been granted last summer for a short period of time. In his spare time, Tom is St. Christopher’s church’s volunteer treasurer, a huge undertaking!
Tom is humble, energetic, and generous and the support he provides to our community outreach is invaluable.
Submitted by Christina Mulder, Director of Programs and Partnership, Open Doors at St. Christopher’s stcb.ca
Techiya Loewen volunteer with Reach Out Centre for Kids
A Beacon of Hope
Techiya has been a volunteer with Danielle’s Place Eating Disorder Support and Resource Centre at Reach Out Centre for Kids (ROCK) for 2 years. Techiya is the Lead Facilitator for a bi-monthly parent/carer support group, for those caring for children affected by eating disorders. This group was established by Techiya 5 years ago, as she recognized there were so few supports for parents/carers who were going through this turbulent, often confusing, scary, and isolating time. She wanted to create a safe community space for parents/carers to come together, share stories, support, resources, comfort, and compassion. Techiya is a beacon of hope for parents who are just starting on this journey or have even been navigating the system for a while, and she does not give up.
Techiya recently spearheaded a collaboration between McMaster Hospital and Danielle’s Place at ROCK and because of her efforts received a grant of $100,000 to implement this group virtually throughout Ontario. She has created huge movement and access to support for parents/carers not only in Halton but in the province. There are now established groups in North, South and Eastern Ontario.
With COVID-19 there has been a 30% increase in eating disorders and hospital inpatient treatment wait times are anywhere from 1-2 years. She has created space without barriers and without waitlists, where parents can go to access support, share their frustrations and worries, access resources and community. When Techiya is not volunteering or connecting with parents, she is working fulltime; this group is something she does because she cares so deeply for the families and understands firsthand how isolating this experience can feel. I feel privileged to know Techiya, I’ve seen her walk alongside families, empowering them, supporting them and giving them a space to just be… Techiya is one of the most dedicated, passionate, and selfless individuals I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with.
Her insight, kind heart and determination to provide hope and support to caregivers of children with eating disorders is immeasurable.
Submitted by Erica Crews, Program Coordinator, Reach Out Centre for Kids rockonline.ca | www.daniellesplace.org
Donna Baker volunteer with Georgetown Bread Basket
Sourcing Healthy Accessible Food
Donna Baker is the volunteer Chair of The Georgetown Bread Basket. Donna leads by example. She is at the food bank every day ensuring our facility is safe and sanitized for everyone entering.
The Georgetown Bread Basket is unique in how we get food to our clients. We allow our clients to take a shopping cart and pick from the shelves what they need or want. Donna recognized that our clients enjoy the selection process while getting their food from our facility so has had to adapt and change the way in which we get food to our clients during Covid-19. The non-perishable items are pre-selected and boxed and our clients can still shop for their non-perishable items by choosing from a “pick-list”.
Donna has supported her board and volunteers with their concerns during the ever-changing rules and precautions that have been implemented. Donna has ensured that everyone entering the facility has hand sanitizer and masks. She also has these items available for clients to add to their shopping list.
Donna has applied for numerous grants that allowed her to purchase new fridges and freezers to store donated foods for our clients. Having the new equipment has allowed Donna and our Food Director to source healthier food options for our clients.
Donna recognized the seniors in our community were not using the food bank. She implemented a delivery service to three lower income senior buildings. Food is delivered weekly and placed in an area accessible to the building residents. A note is attached with the food bank details encouraging them to use our resources.
Donna has been instrumental in getting our organization to become a household name within our community. Donna with her board organized a fundraiser through the Coldest Night of The Year which brought us a cheque for $40,000. Our community came out in the cold with their families / church groups / sport groups to allow us to provide food options for our clients.
Submitted by Lorraine Hardie, Secretary, Georgetown Bread Basket georgetownbreadbasket.ca
Gord Cumming volunteer with Links2Care
Dependable Food Delivery
Gord joined Links2Care as a Meals on Wheels volunteer in May 2007 and has been an excellent volunteer. He is very reliable and professional. During the pandemic, Gord continued in his volunteer role picking up Meals on Wheels at Allendale in Milton 2 or 3 times per week and brings items to the Georgetown office to pass on to the other volunteers. There are some days, if a client lives between Milton and Georgetown he delivers their meal on his way back to Georgetown.
Gord is also the volunteer who picks up the food for Congregate Dining. During the pandemic Links2Care had changed the Congregate Dining program to comply with pandemic restrictions. Gord has gracefully adapted to the all the changes that were necessary to keep the programs running smoothly. Every other Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday Gord takes the delivery bags to the restaurant that is catering the event that week. He then delivers the hot food to the seniors building. Even when the dining program had to be reduced to once per month, Gord was still there to help out.
This past year during the pandemic Gord has been as dependable as ever. Gord is always willing to fill in when needed and he is really good at cleaning the delivery bags when they need it. If Links2Care’s Acton Meals on Wheels did not have a driver available, Gord would fill in.
Submitted by Sherisse Bhimani, Volunteer and Friendly Visiting Associate, Links2Care www.links2care.ca
Karen Drexler volunteer with Halton Down Syndrome Association
Keeping Group V.I.P.s Connected
After seeing the impact COVID-19 has had on her son and his friends at the Halton Down Syndrome Association (HDSA), Karen Drexler decided to organize social and developmental opportunities for the members delivered in a safe yet impactful manner.
Karen is the volunteer Peer Co-ordinator for the High School and Graduate Groups. Isolation, anxiety, depression, confusion – these were the common themes she was hearing from families and group members of the HDSA, she calls V.I.P.s. Karen decided to design programming to keep the group members connected, and provide programming to keep their minds engaged, their bodies busy and provide them with stimulation. She designed programming groups everyday and sometimes twice a day for the members. From social groups, to music, creative writing, workouts, to cooking classes. She has networked with several agencies in order to support this initiative.
The response has been overwhelming, and participation continues to increase. The members express feelings of excitement and grateful for the connections growing and being made with their friends. Karen Drexler works tirelessly and continuously for ensure this programming is provided to the group.
Submitted by Magen Stretton & Meghan Caruso, Halton Down Syndrome Association haltondownsyndrome.com
John Barrett volunteer with Townsend Smith Foundation
Unwavering Commitment to the Cause
Simply put John has been pivotal to the success of the Townsend Smith Foundation. John has been involved with the organization for a decade and deserves many accolades for his unwavering support of the cause. John has dedicated countless hours to Townsend Smith Hospice Foundation, whether it be event focused, making presentations or meeting with donors. The organization reached new fundraising heights and secured its first transformational gift in 2020 under his leadership.
John was able to work closely with a prospective donor of property and we are closer then ever to finding our forever home. During covid John also helped the organization to pivot and start running an online awareness program that focused on self care, grief, legacy giving, and palliative care. John is a person of integrity and incredible skills coupled with a drive to accomplish what he has set out to do. He is unstoppable.
“John has been part of our hospice dream for over 10 years, working with us to achieve our incorporation after which he became the Vice Chair and then Chair of the Board of Directors. He has always worked diligently and with great passion to bring us closer and closer to attaining our goal of a hospice for Milton and Halton Hills. Even though John will no longer be a voting member of the Board, I know he will continue using his many talents to help our dream become a reality” states Janet Townsend, founder of Townsend Smith Foundation
Submitted by Kate Holmes, Director of Development, Townsend Smith Hospice Foundation www.townsend-smith.ca
Dayane Magalhaes volunteer with Food for Life in Oakville
Good Food Door Delivery
Through this past year, many have struggled to put GOOD food on their tables, but thanks to volunteers like Dayane it has become less stressful for many living at Glen Oaks Co-Op Housing in Oakville.
Every Thursday, Dayane is there running the Food for Life (FFL) program supporting her neighbours. Over the years, we have had challenges that turned into opportunities with this program. When we made some adjustments to the program and had Dayane take on a leadership role, the program went from serving 35 households weekly to serving 75!
When COVID hit this past year, we had to adjust our programming. Dayane knew the importance of this program for her neighbours and said, “I will do door delivery and drop all the GOOD food bags at their doors.” The Glen Oaks Co-Op Housing is a large 6 storey high-rise building with 141 apartments – Dayane often times is there volunteering with just her daughter. The GOOD food bags are approximately 16 pounds each – meaning this delivery was not going to be easy. These challenges did not sway Dayane’s decision to make it happen.
After 4.5 hours Dayane and her daughter had all the bags delivered! This shows dedication, compassion, and determination – three qualities we always look for in our volunteers. FFL is a stronger organization because of volunteers like Dayane – always willing to go the extra mile to ensure her neighbours are supported.
Submitted by Donna Slater, Director of Programs and Community Partnerships, Food for Life foodforlife.ca
Gladis Di Paolo volunteer with St. Luke’s Anglican Church
Nourishing Neighbours Beyond the Call Of Duty
Gladis has been an exemplary volunteer at St. Luke’s Anglican Church and Community Centre. Gladis has served on various community programs including monthly community dinners and our Nourishing Neighbours food bank for many years. In 2020, she stepped up as main founder of our Nourishing Neighbours Program and transformed the program so that it could continue to run during the pandemic.
As our numbers continued to grow in 2020 food demand increased. Gladis actively ensured food was arranged on a weekly basis by grocery shopping for additional items, communicating with local community organizations, and reaching out to the community for donations. Gladis is pivotal to the success of our program. St. Luke’s Nourishing neighbours program continues to feed over 150 families per week. Her commitment and dedication to our food bank program goes above and beyond the call of duty, and without her the program would not run as smoothly as it does.
Submitted by Monique Gaudet, Program Manager, St. Luke’s Anglican Church stlukesburlington.ca