When Elsie Wilker started volunteering with the Parkwood Institute Auxiliary in 1984, the mortar binding the bricks of the new hospital (then known as Parkwood Hospital) was barely dry. Thirty-three years later, Elsie has dedicated more than 10,000 hours to volunteering.
At Parkwood Institute, Elsie, 82, volunteers at the General Store – a gift shop offering cards, snacks, coffee and sundries with proceeds going to patient and resident care. “Before I started volunteering, I was a homemaker and kept the books for my husband’s business,” says Elsie. “I needed a new challenge and was ready to try something different.”
”The volunteers at Parkwood Institute are often the first people a family member comes into contact with – their warmth and kindness sets the tone for Parkwood,” says Roy Butler, Vice President, Patient Care and Risk Management. “The organization would not run nearly as smoothly without the dedication of volunteers like Elsie.”
“Auxiliary volunteers are imperative to our volunteer base,” adds volunteer associate Erin Betts. “Since its inception in 1963 the Auxiliary has raised enough money through their sales in the General and Corner Stores and the lottery booth to donate $1,219,502 to the St. Joseph’s Health Care Foundation to meet patients’ needs.”
For every one of the more than 3,500 shifts Elsie has worked so far at the General Store, she has conscientiously come in an hour before her shifts officially start to be sure she has everything in place before opening the store for the day.
“I did all the confectionary buying for years, always searching for the best deals so we could make more profit for the hospital,” laughs Elsie, who thoroughly enjoys every aspect of working at the store, including the camaraderie she shares with her coworkers.
Elsie counts among her most memorable moments the time when Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, came to open Western Counties Wing in 1989. With more than three decades of service, Elsie has seen a lot of changes, but the one thing that hasn’t changed is the reward of helping to ease patients’ care journeys by providing them with a friendly word and a helping hand.
How to volunteer: To volunteer for the Auxiliary at Parkwood Institute, please visit the Volunteer Services section on our website.