Volunteers are the heart of every community and every organization. While COVID-19 restricted many activities and usual volunteering opportunities, supporting our communities and each other has never been more important.

Volunteers did not disappoint. They were changing rapidly, adjusting to new realities of COVID-19. Volunteers were making phone calls, checking in with the vulnerable, writing cards, and meeting virtually with those in quarantine or lockdown. They were disinfecting pews, screening visitors to churches, hospitals or senior houses. They delivered groceries. They helped continue parish ministries.

Volunteers in our churches, schools, hospitals and other organizations were sharing their time and talents to help others, to strengthen the power of community, to get things done, to be of assistance and support with kindness and compassion. This is the spirit of the community.

Volunteer enjoys helping staff screeners

George Adu started volunteering at the Misericordia Community Hospital during the pandemic, and he’s glad he did.

“I love helping people. Communicating with people is my hobby, so this is great.”

George helps staff greet and screen people as they come into the hospital. And he’s thankful to contribute to the pandemic response. 

“What motivates is me is seeing people and knowing I can help them. They come. They ask questions. When I’m able to help them, that’s what keeps me going. They rely on what we’re doing, so that motivates me.”

Learn more about people like George at www.covenantstrong.ca

Helen Lindsay – making people lives easier

Helen has always been an active member of her parish. She is the past president and a 21-year member of the Catholic Women’s League at St. Mary’s parish in Red Deer. Helen led a number of Bible study groups.

She was on the pastoral team taking a Holy Communion to Michener Extendicare and Villa Marie Covenant House.

Helen is also an active in the Art and Environment Ministry and she volunteers at the food bank or Ronald McDonald House when they need help.

When COVID-19 restrictions were implemented, many of these activities were put on hold. However, Helen is a person who willingly helps everyone who needs it. She found a way.

Helen is an active member of a pro-life group. She is also committed to helping the Central Alberta Pregnancy Care Centre, where she volunteers and helps raise funds. An unplanned pregnancy is not easy.

Helen provided respite for parents to ensure they have a break from their children so they do not get overwhelmed. She accepts people where they are and helps make their lives better. For many she is a mentor.

Linda Stuart – stepping up in the crisis

Like Helen, Linda Stuart has been active in the parish for many years. She has been a CWL member for 35 years, its past president , piano player, choir member, proclaimer at Masses.

Before pandemic, Linda was an active volunteer, taking Communion to patients at the Red Deer Regional Hospital. Linda assisted with Liturgy of the Word at Villa Marie and Inglewood Revera seniors’ homes. She was volunteering at the Michener Extendicare to bring the Catholic residents a lay-led Liturgy of the Word with Communion. She was also very active with the food bank. Her involvement in parish life continues to be outstanding.

The parish and her CWL council appreciated Linda even more once their funeral coordinator Betty passed away. Betty had been coordinating the process at the parish for more than 10 years. She was the one who knew everything about preparation of a funeral lunch. Using Betty’s notebooks, Linda led the process from the start from the time a caller asks parish for a funeral Mass/service to asking the CWL to serve lunch to organizing the shopping to recommending the number of helpers needed for setting the tables to preparing and serving the lunch and the cleanup. It is difficult to put into words the enormous help this has been to CWL president and the parish community. Actually, Linda is the only one who really knows how to run the dishwasher!

Rose and Kevin Hearn – St. Charles Parish

As volunteers at St. Charles Parish, Rose and Kevin Hearn, were always involved in their community. Closing churches back in the spring of 2020 was not ideal for volunteers, but it was understandable. Restrictions were eased, the Hearns jumped in to help whenever help was needed from cleaning to disinfecting, managing ministries and organizing volunteers. Rose and Kevin continue to be there to help Father Marc Cramer, Father J.D. Carmichael, parish staff, and parish community.

Dan and Mary Dunnigan, longtime volunteers with Society of Saint Vincent de Paul

Dan first heard the call to join the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul through an invitation from the pulpit at St. Joseph’s Basilica. He immersed himself in the organization, inspired by its directions to serve the poor with love, respect, justice, and joy. He drove the truck that delivers furniture and household items. He began helping with charity fundraisers, and he went on to serve as president of the Basilica Conference of SSVP.

While the numbers are small in the inner-city group, its work makes a huge impact. Attendance at national meetings helped his knowledge and commitment. Currently Dan serves as president, truck driver, website donations coordinator, and general handyman for computers at the SSVP Distribution Centre. He also coordinates a large grant earmarked for use in the inner city and helps the distribution centre coordinator in countless ways.

Mary joined in a small way at the start, inspired by Vincentians such as John Chin and Bernie McCracken. When she retired from teaching, Mary expanded her involvement at the parish conference level and she went on to serve as president of Edmonton Central Council, secretary of West Region of SSVP, and member of the national Information Management Committee.

Her presentations at national gatherings confirmed her commitment to the multi-layered and multi-faceted organization that is the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul. As president Mary learned to appreciate the many hours and talents Vincentians share so that Edmonton is a better place for those in need.

Meeting people who were helped by SSVP reinforced her belief that a handout becomes a handup. When a mother says her children went to school from an empty apartment and returned to a home with furnishings, it has a huge impact. The spiritual side of SSVP reminds us all that we are blessed to see God in the face of those we serve. What a privilege!

Dan and Mary get to work together, as do many couples and families in SSVP. It unites them and helps them to appreciate their own families and blessings.