Volunteers find new ways to give

Brenda Morris is passionate about her volunteer work at the Misericordia Community Hospital. She is one of several breast cancer survivors who has logged countless hours with the hospital’s Healing Connections program, supporting patients undergoing breast cancer treatment by offering information, reassurance and support throughout their journey.

Throughout her more than six years of working with fellow volunteers, patients and staff, Brenda has come to feel like the Misericordia is a second family, and like many, she wondered how she could still help after it was no longer safe to visit hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic. When she heard of an initiative to sew masks for staff and visitors to wear when they leave the hospital, Brenda was eager to participate. She even shared the initiative with a group of volunteers who sew pillows for Healing Connections patients, and they managed to sew 140 masks in just one week.

“I’m hoping that this helps the cause and that when people go home after the hospital, they feel a little more secure,” Brenda says. “Hopefully, patients feel a bit of a personal connection too because I think that’s important in your healing journey — to know someone is thinking of you.”

Brenda is one of more than 50 volunteers at the Misericordia and Villa Caritas who answered the call for homemade masks. Together, they have sewn over 900 masks in two weeks, and the numbers are growing as volunteers recruit friends, family members and other contacts to join them in maskmaking. 

More than 30 volunteers at the Grey Nuns Community Hospital have also begun sewing masks and have enough supplies to make hundreds for staff and patients. Teresa Lucier, manager of volunteer services at the hospital, says this is one of many examples of how committed volunteers are to making a difference however they can, even if they can’t be physically present at the hospital.

“Covenant volunteers prove time and time again that they are engaged and responsive, so it’s no surprise that during the COVID-19 crisis their response was quick,” Teresa says. “We are so grateful for all of our volunteers.”

Julien Bilodeau, another volunteer who is making masks for the Misericordia, has been sewing for nearly 30 years, mostly out of necessity to repair household items and clothing — and even make Halloween costumes for his four children. While making masks is a new endeavour, he’s quickly learning and is happy to keep contributing to the Misericordia.

Julien Bilodeau has been sewing masks for Misericordia staff and patients to wear outside the hospital.

“I’ve got the time and materials, so it’s one way to help where I can,” Julien says. “I hope it keeps people a little bit safer.”

After the masks are dropped off at the hospital, they are laundered and placed in clean, sealed containers where they can be distributed to hospital staff, physicians and patients who request them. 

The idea to supply masks for use outside the hospital came from Brenda Shim, manager of volunteer services at the Misericordia hospital. Recognizing that staff and patients may wish to wear a mask when they leave the hospital and go into public areas such as grocery stores, Brenda put the call out to Misericordia volunteers and was amazed at the outpouring of offers.

She says the idea was inspired by her childhood in South Korea, where it’s common for people to wear a mask when they are feeling unwell.

“The inspiration came from my family,” Brenda says. “Wearing a mask when they are ill is a sign of respect for the people around them. It’s a safe way we can all take part in preventing the spread.”

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