As a couple, Mitzi and Marvin Bogacz are fixtures within the Village of Humber Heights. For the past eight years, like clockwork, the couple can be found along Main Street regularly throughout the week.
Marvin will usually be at the Scrabble board, challenging the minds of long- term care residents, while Mitzi has a regular card game in the late morning on Tuesdays with the same few ladies. At lunch, she heads to the dining room in Alderwood, where she helps those residents for whom the physical act of eating is often a challenge. If there’s a special event, Mitzi and Marv aren’t far; they’re the volunteers that everyone knows can be counted on to fill any need at any time.
Since sliding into retirement 20 years ago, volunteering has been a part of their lives. They divide their time between the Etobicoke General Hospital and Humber Heights, and they say that in the act of sharing their time with others, they receive much more than they give.
“It just makes you feel good if you’re able to do something for others,” Mitzi says when asked why she feels compelled to volunteer. She shrugs her shoulders and offers a warm smile: “That’s all there is; it just makes you feel good.”
They both know they’re fortunate to be in strong health in their early 80s, and they’ve had many close friends and loved ones who’ve met great challenges with age, and many who are no longer around. It was a neighbour who moved to the village when it opened that first brought Mitzi in and she says after visit- ing her, the regular visits just sort of fell into place. “I thought, ‘oh it would be nice here with the residents,’ so we started coming all the time and we love it.”
It can be hard she admits; you grow close with people and they pass on, and with others the challenges of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease are very real, but there are so many moments of joy that they far eclipse those of sadness.
Marvin shares the story of one resident living with dementia, a former teacher who loves to play scrabble, and though it can be dif- ficult at times she remains persistent as she wills the words and counts to come back to her through cloud- ed memories, and they do. There is a simple happiness to be found in those moments that Marvin is a part of almost every time they play together.
Marvin finds in many cases it’s the simple act of conversation that has the greatest impact. At the hospital as he sells Nevada tickets, people will come up to him and simply talk. He might not say three words as a stranger pours out their worries over a loved one admitted there, but the act of listening is cherished, and the stran- ger walks away having shared a piece of themself with him. At Humber Heights it’s much the same. Marvin and Mitzi share themselves with resi- dents, who reciprocate the gift. It’s an ongoing cycle – regular acts of kindness that swing both ways.