When Barb Schlegel, the matriarch of the Schlegel Villages organization, passed away suddenly in early March and a wave of tributes poured into the heart of the Schlegel family, a few themes quickly began to emerge. Her humble perseverance in the face of immense adversity and her sharp sense of humour were seen and felt by many who loved and knew her, but so, too, was her dedication to the service of others.
As we mark Volunteer Appreciation Week this year, Barb’s memory is close at hand and heart and we find in the warm smiles and gentle voices of our many volunteers the quiet grace and beauty that made Barb such a special person.
“They teach me that we’re not here to do a job,” Glendale Crossing’s recreation director Erin Seldon once said when asked what she values in the volunteers she has known. “We’re here because we are called to do so and we’re here to give unselfishly. We’re here for the people and it’s not about working, it’s about making those connections.”
And the hundreds of volunteers at Schlegel Villages make these connections naturally. They do so with an inherent gift to read another’s needs, at times when someone isn’t able to articulate them on their own, and they do so while asking nothing in return.
It wasn’t long ago that we shared a story about Gordon Fuller, who continued to visit the long-term care neighbourhoods at Wentworth Heights after his wife who lived there had passed away. Gord had a connection with so many of his wife’s neighbours and he knew many of them simply needed a quiet friend to sit with. It was his pleasure to keep visiting from his home in the Retirement neighbourhoods just down Main Street.
“There is one woman who doesn’t want to talk,” Gord said. “She just wants to hold my hand,” and he’s content to be that point of meaningful contact. He would help others in group activities and could often be found outside guiding someone’s wheelchair along in the courtyard breeze, sharing space and time and the kindness of simple conversation.
To be a volunteer can be just that: simple; but it can also be transformative, for the helper and the helped alike are given ample room to grow through new relationships. As Villages continue to welcome more people into the bustle of Main Streets that for too long in recent months have been so quiet, they are once again seeking the kind hearts of new volunteers to add to the vibrancy of Village life.
There are countless opportunities to share the best of yourself with others, carrying on the legacy of so many other fine people in the process. To learn more about volunteer opportunities at a Village near you, click here to get your application started.