As the landscape of volunteering continues to evolve in the wake of COVID-19, Cummings Centre volunteers have stepped up in order to meet the new challenges brought on by the pandemic and maintain critical programs and services.

Over the past few months, the Centre has made many significant changes in order to keep everything running safely and smoothly. “We were responding to a crisis and went into emergency mode,” recalls Lynn Gordon, Director of Volunteer Services. “Volunteers couldn’t come to the Centre to fulfill their roles or even assist. Essential services had to be re-fashioned.”

Work Goes on with Virtual Volunteering

The shift to virtual volunteering has led to the need to teach seniors how to use Zoom and access the Centre’s many resources. Training sessions were given to over 80 volunteer leaders and committee members and personalized teaching sessions were offered to seniors wanting to connect with family and friends.

Volunteers continue to help in many areas of the Centre. For two years, volunteer Arlette Acoca has been providing support to clients with dementia with the Centre’s Day Services program. Acoca now does that virtually. “Participants appreciate the ongoing interaction with activities and support,” says Acoca, who also maintains contact with clients on a regular basis through care calls.

Care Calls, a Lifeline for Many

With COVID-19 keeping many seniors in their homes, volunteers were trained to make care calls to seniors on a regular basis to see how they were doing. Seniors were delighted to receive calls and soon forged close friendships with the callers. Helen Scharf, 97, receives weekly calls from Joshua Hazan Mea, a Herzliah High School student. “We chat about everything,” says Scharf. “The conversation is genuine and the call is uplifting during these difficult times.”

Hazan Mea notes that calling isolated seniors has been an enriching experience, taking great pride in the volunteer work he does. He is not alone. Among others, many students volunteered to spend their summer calling seniors.  Lynn Gordon says, “This is not part of their community service requirements. When the request went out from their school, the students answered the call.”

Continuing Meals-On-Wheels Safely

Government regulations in regard to senior volunteers made the Cummings Centre’s regular delivery of meals to recipients in the community even more challenging. Drivers and deliverers had to be under a certain age and from the same household bubble in order to deliver together. “We looked to families who could make the deliveries and we were very fortunate for their help,” Gordon says.

The Cummings Centre has many dynamic and innovative volunteer opportunities for you to stay connected and involved. To find out how you can make a difference in someone else’s life, contact [email protected] or call 514.734.1791.

The Cummings Centre empowers and enhances the quality of life of adults age 50 and over by providing dynamic and innovative programs, social services and volunteer opportunities in a vibrant, respectful, inclusive and compassionate environment.

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