Etta Gore is from northern Ontario where Black Spruce and Tamarack trees cover the ancient rock formations of the Canadian Shield. It’s the type of place where one must he somewhat hardened to handle the elements and the distances, while at the same time compassionate and kind, for people look out for one another in the north.
Etta was blessed with a sense of compassion for others, eventually choosing a role as a nurse in the hospital in Cochrane. It’s odd, she says, that she went that route because in childhood she spent far too many days in hospital settings battling severe tuberculosis and she never thought she’d want to spend more time in one. She realized as she grew older, however, that she was good at caring for others.
Because her husband worked with Ontario Hydro, they were often moving to different places throughout the north so Etta often took other types of work depending on where they were. She would take odd jobs or random clients seeking a housekeeper when she wasn’t nursing, but deep down she was always a caregiver. She loved helping others while learning new ways to support them through illness or injury.
That was a long time ago, she says, and she’s now lived in The Village of Taunton Mills for the past six years. When she first moved in, the idea of volunteering to help other residents came to mind but she never pursued it. “I’m just a resident,” she thought, and residents receive help, they don’t offer it.
Much has changed since then, and today she can often be found sitting alongside fellow residents in the Claremont dining room who sometimes need a little assistance with their meals. Etta will physically help them eat, if needed, or often she is simply there as a friendly voice encouraging them to continue if they lose a little focus.
“Now I’m just a resident volunteer,” she says with a smile. “I have the badge to prove it,” and she’s proud to be of assistance.
There are times when a resident will turn to her and offer a quiet “thank you” with a smile, which can come as a bit of a surprise. Many people she helps are living with dementia, yet despite the changes in their perceptions they still understand feelings of gratitude; they see Etta in her wheelchair offering support, and feelings of empathy and appreciation arise spontaneously. Those are nice moments to be a part of.
“I do enjoy it,” she says, “especially helping those who can’t feed themselves.”
It’s the way she has always been, a helper and carer, in villages throughout the north and the Village she calls home today.