How this volunteer-turned-employee appreciates the value of a simple act
It all starts somewhere. A friend of a friend, a colleague, a family member – someone tells you about an opportunity and you jump on it. That’s exactly what happened with Laura, who found her way to Jeneece Place when friends told her there was a need for volunteers to make meals for the families staying at the house.
Knowing that food is a form of love, Laura signed up as a volunteer immediately. She filled the house with the sweet scents of cinnamon buns, glazed ham, and cabbage rolls – using whatever was in the freezer and pantry at the time. That was in January 2020, and Laura’s time as a volunteer was cut short when COVID restricted access to essential staff only.
A few months later Laura’s brother told her of a job opening at Jeneece Place. Though she wasn’t looking for a job, Laura knew that this was a way she could help. She wanted to be back in the kitchen, supporting the families in the best way she knew how.
“Food is my love language. I knew that the families were fine, but when they’re thinking about their children, during a pandemic of all things, they don’t have time to think about anything else,” says Laura.
One of the reasons Laura chose to volunteer at Jeneece Place is because of an experience with her own children. Though they are grown now, she remembers when her three-year-old son was hospitalized for three weeks. She needed to focus on him while caring for her four-year-old and six-month-old baby at home. She thought the world would come to a halt for those three weeks, but the groceries, the hydro bill, and other necessities still needed attention.
“The last thing you need to think about is the easiest thing to forget,” says Laura.
That’s why Laura appreciates the value of a simple act. These simple acts of kindness mean so much to people, no matter what walk of life they’re on or where they come from. When Laura first arrived at Jeneece Place, she thought it would be a sad place that brings people together. Instead, she has learned about the magic of the house.
“What could be a really sad place is rarely a sad place,” observes Laura. “Everybody is on a journey, and they’re loving and supportive and kind and encouraging.”
A helping hand
Though she now earns a paycheque, Laura values her time at the house more than anything. Whether she’s baking, sweeping the dining room, or scrubbing the stairs, she sees firsthand the impact of these simple acts on people’s lives; how it changed their day or made life just a little bit easier for them.
“To come here and cook for people is such a lovely reward,” she said. “Give what you can and expect nothing in return, but my goodness, the returns are amazing.”
Laura recalls a time when a grandmother at Jeneece Place was worried about her daughter and preemie grandchild next door at Victoria General Hospital. Laura had made a big pot of hearty chicken noodle soup for the families and sat down with the grandmother, chatting about life, worries, and woes. The grandmother left feeling better, with a full tummy and a lighter heart.
“I didn’t offer any advice,” says Laura. “I offered nothing but someone to talk to at a time when she didn’t have anyone else to talk to. We’re their home away from home, but we’re their family away from their families as well.”