Dedicated volunteers are minding the store

Marilyn Smith makes volunteering a way of life. It started 19 years ago, when her husband was a resident in Parkwood’s Veterans Care Program. Six months after he passed away, she started giving her time to staff the General Store in Parkwood, and has since become one of St. Joseph’s most active volunteers.

Marilyn in store

Marilyn’s volunteer efforts at Parkwood go far beyond staffing the store every Wednesday. On Monday, she’s one of the Crafty Ladies who make meal tray ornaments, small holiday-themed gifts given to residents on six occasions a year. Tuesday, Marilyn runs the lottery booth at Parkwood, and on Thursday she sews for the veterans, preparing the pillows that they decorate in the Veterans Arts Program. On Friday, she’s back at the store. She also volunteers her time at the St. Joseph’s Foundation and in the Wound Management Clinic.

She loves all her volunteer time, though the store is her favourite. Marilyn cheerfully greets customers and enjoys any work that gets her involved with other people. “It’s nice to see the smiles on their faces when you can do something for them.”

The volunteers who staff the Corner Store in the Western Counties Wing of Parkwood Institute every Wednesday and Friday are the husband and wife team of Bob and Robin Harvie. They started volunteering at the store three years ago after someone in their church suggested it would be a great fit for them.

Robin and Bob

Bob, a former paratrooper known for his zany sense of humour, is happy to tell you “I sell women’s clothing now.” He met Robin while serving in Oklahoma, eventually whisking her away to North Bay before ending up in London. Now in retirement, they find that volunteering keeps them feeling connected with others.

Robin says volunteering comes with lots of extra perks, such as visiting with the veterans who stop in to chat, and sometimes stay for longer visits at the table and chairs in the store. “We definitely feel needed here.”

Karen Van DiepenFor the last ten years, Karen Van Diepen has been volunteering at the Waterman Store in the Parkwood Mental Health Care Building. She says volunteering gives her a sense of accomplishment, in a community of supportive people. “St. Joseph’s treats us very well here. The volunteers feel like we’re part of the staff.”

For the last nine years, Karen has also been part of the Christmas Campaign, as one of the volunteers who shop for gifts for patients receiving mental health care at Parkwood. She’s also been the volunteer administrative support person who prepares the Parkinson’s education sessions. Soon, she will start volunteering one more day a week at the Iron Duke Pub for veterans in the Western Counties Wing at Parkwood. She sees it as a special opportunity to hear the veterans’ stories.

Learn more:

Back to Stories