The rewards are wonderful
April 19, 2021
I am one of those volunteers who has been blessed to have the opportunity to serve as a Board Member at Wood’s Homes!
I first became involved with Wood’s Homes, in support of a fundraising effort to replace the ‘old’ EXIT Community Outreach van. This was during a time in the past before the technology, (tablets, social media, etc.) changed our outreach abilities. During this time Wood’s Homes deployed a physical van onto the streets of Calgary every evening well into the early hours of the next morning. The van was equipped with a volunteer driver, a clinical social worker and when possible a nurse I recall joining in the back of the van wearing a Santa suit one late December night. The temperature outside on the street was at least -22C! What an eye opener for me to witness the excellent work being done by this outreach program providing warmth, counselling, hot chocolate, health care advice, warm scarfs, socks, mittens, toques, and personal hygiene products! As this was close to Christmas, the thoughtfulness to even provide a Teddy Bear and other small gifts was inspiring.
Speaking of Wood’s Homes programs, I had the rewarding delight to don the Santa suit to share Joy and Happiness with the Foster Care program, entertaining up to 120 young children and their families. I will never forget the smallest of these children clinging to my legs as I entered the party room. The belief and sparkle in their eyes has left me with forever memories of just how positive something like this is to young minds. My experience of greeting each child as they approached the Santa ‘Throne’ using my very best deep voice with a “Merry Christmas”, and asking “how old are you?” (so that my helper elves could provide an age-appropriate gift) is just one of my favourite memories!
One bouncy young fellow enthusiastically approached responding with authority, “Santa, it’s me Dillon, don’t you remember me?” Oh-oh, I thought, now what do I do? So, I replied, “Ho-Ho-Ho, of course I do Dillon! My how you have grown, help Santa out and remind me, how old were you last year?” He proudly held up four fingers announcing, “Four!” Ho-Ho-Ho, a great memory I will always cherish and love to tell the foster parents every year when we meet at the Foster Parents Appreciation Event.
I love sharing stories about the excellent work and fantastic people at Wood’s Homes whether at my monthly Breakfast Club meetings, or in presentations to organizations like the Rotary Club or the Gyro Club. Meeting with government representatives, Civic and provincial or potential donors, for tours of our three campuses, describing many of our over 40 different programs, the success rates that we enjoy at Wood’s is just another rewarding aspect of volunteering. Meeting other civic volunteers along with staff members at dozens of community association meetings in a proactive effort to educate and to build relationships within the neighbourhoods in which we operate our programs has always been a highlight for me.
The amazing growth and positive transformation of Wood’s Homes in the short time that I have been involved include the implementation of such world-class initiatives such as: the Wood’s Homes Research Chair in Children’s Mental Health, in partnership with the University of Calgary; the building of the Vermilion Energy Family Centre at the Bowness Campus; the introduction of the Youth Culinary Arts Program; the Inglewood Opportunity Hub; housing accommodations; the Indigenous program; Foster Care Network; and Robotics program at George Wood Learning Centre and the William Taylor Learning Centre.
It has been gratifying to participate with the dedicated staff and volunteers to present unique and successful fundraising events like the Annual Galas (both in Calgary and Lethbridge), Wood’s and the City, and Wine, Women and Shoes.
All the while, I wax on from a volunteer’s view into an organization that bar none is amongst the best-in-class mental health centres in North America with exemplary ratings over many years with Accreditation Canada.
How much prouder could anyone be? I highly recommend everyone consider sharing their talents and time as a volunteer, the rewards are wonderful!