See the tabs below to read stories about some of our volunteers.
Marj and Barb’s Story
Marj started volunteering in 2007 thinking it was going to be a short term commitment to help out a pal whose mother had Alzheimer's. Once she got involved with the project and the organization she realized how important it is to support those who are going through the journey of dementia. Many of her friends had gone through the experience with their parents. After working for the society for a year or two her own mother in law started showing signs of dementia and she was grateful to have the support of the folks at the society to help her.
Barb has also been volunteering with the Alzheimer Society since 2007. Her family understands the Alzheimer’s journey and the importance of the Society’s many services – her mother-in-law has a form of dementia as did her father-in-law.
Marj and Barb are Co-ordinators of the Touch Quilt Project. Touch Quilts are sensory quilts that provide comfort and a tactile quilt to those who have dementia or anyone who would benefit from having a quilt. Touch Quilts are made from donated material and sewn by many many volunteers and are given to those in our community free of charge. Marj and Barb collect material for the quilts and make kits to be distributed to those in the community who want to make sensory quilts for the project. They also organize work bees for other volunteers who want to come and make kits at the Quilt Quarters at the Kitchener office or take kits and material to groups that want to make kits at their locations. Marj and Barb also enjoy speaking to community groups about the Touch Quilt Project and the society. They distribute quilts to long term care facilities, retirement homes, home care groups, hospitals and any other groups or individuals who need quilts.
To anyone considering volunteering for our Touch Quilt Project, join us - we are always looking for volunteers who want to quilt, sew, cut, kit or help distribute quilts. These beautiful quilts are so well received by so many people.
”Volunteering is like throwing a pebble in a stream - once you drop the stone in it sends ripples all over. Once you step into the volunteer role your involvement sends ripples all over the community and makes your life richer!”
You can read more about the Touch Quilt Project in these articles.
I have been volunteering for 8 years - since Great Escape Gala days!
The society is an important cause because I have seen many people suffer from Dementia and early onset Dementia and hope that one day they find a cure. It’s sad when memories shared cannot be remembered.
I am a volunteer event and auctions coordinator for the Purse-suasion galas, I have hosted a coffee break and participated in the Walk for Memories… so much fun!
I would recommend volunteering for this organization if you wish to be fulfilled by supporting caregivers who work so hard, day and night and helping raise money for educational programs for families that have to deal with Alzheimers!
”Getting involved in your community gives a sense of making a difference in the world. If you have the time and want to gain experience working in groups and showing your creativity then come on down! Everyone has something to contribute… the workers at the society brought that out of me and they can find your passion too.”
If you are thinking about volunteering, my advice is to start off small, join the walk, participate in an event run by the society and you will know what I am talking about!!
I’m only just figuring out who I want to be and what I want to do with all the opportunities I’ve been given and I also strive to maintain a true work-life balance. When I’m not at work I’m either training for my next half-marathon, pursuing further education, relaxing with friends and family or actively participating in the community.
I’m currently a Volunteer Companion for the Alzheimer Society, but I was also the Food Coordinator of this past year’s Purse-Suasion. As a Volunteer Companion I have the pleasure of meeting with one of our community members with dementia and his wife every week. We talk about everything and always have fun. I have built a strong friendship with both my companion and his wife. My companion has lived an adventurous life. I love listening to his stories and being able to relate with my own. I enjoy being able to spend time with him and provide him with conversation he wouldn’t always be able to have while also giving his wife some time to herself.
Both of my maternal grandparents have been diagnosed with some form of dementia. When I came home from University, I did my best to help my parents with their care. I know how important it is to have that support network. Knowing the importance of support, I hope to be able to provide it to members of the community by volunteering with the Alzheimer Society.
Mary Pat’s Story
Until I started high school, my very best friend in the world was my grandmother Jean. When she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, it was during an era when there wasn’t much of a focus on how people could live well with dementia. iPod music programs and friendly visitor programs just didn't exist.
As an adult, looking back, I wondered if there was something I could have done differently if I had had the opportunity. it was something that broke my heart whenever I thought about it. So, when I was laid off from my high-tech job in the fall of 2013, almost 35 years later, I started to wonder if I might be able to help others who were living with dementia have a better experience than she did.
That question about how I might be of service led me in three directions: the first thing I did was to volunteer to help with the Memory Boosters Social Club, the second was to start a company that is dedicated to helping people with cognitive impairments maintain independence and dignity for as long as possible, and the third was to volunteer with Alzheimer Society Waterloo Wellington.
I volunteer for the Alzheimer Society in a few ways: I have volunteered at the past two Walk for Memories events, but I also help to run the Memory Boosters Social Club, which is not technically an Alzheimer Society group, but it is very closely affiliated with the Alzheimer Society, and it was started by a group of friends who had met during an education program run by the Alzheimer Society. I have helped to run that group for the past two years, and during that time, I have become very close friends with Elaine, who is an Alzheimer Society volunteer who also helps with the group. My volunteer role revolves around helping to plan, set up, and facilitate the group meetings, which take place on the second and fourth Tuesday afternoon of each month. To be honest, it really is like a party every few weeks, where we sing, eat, laugh, make art, and share stories. I tell you, these people know how to have fun!
”I can honestly say that volunteering is one of the very best thing I have ever chosen to do. It is absolutely life changing in the best possible way. When you volunteer with big-hearted people, and you get to help make people’s lives a little better and brighter, everything else you do pales in comparison.”
In fact, I am so committed to volunteering after having worked with the Alzheimer Society and the Memory Boosters group for the past two years, that I am making it a requirement of all of my employees that they too will volunteer as part of their responsibilities.
After spending two years of building my life and schedule around volunteering, I would just like to encourage people to volunteer. You really do see that your life matters when you find a way to help someone else. If you aren’t quite sure where to volunteer, here is a little something that might help you decide what cause is right for you: when you think about something that brings a tear to your eye every time you think about it, that is the thing you should be going toward. Trust me, if you had a loved one who lived with dementia, and it is breaking your heart, the very best thing you can do is to find a way to help someone who is living with it.
p.s. Volunteering is also really fun! Yes, it's even more fun than Pokemon Go.
If you are interested in seeing what kind of shenanigans we get up to at the Memory Boosters Social Club, you should check us out on Facebook. Life can be hard, but with a little bit of support from friends in our communities, it can still be good.
I recently (1 ½ years) retired from a company that manufactured and serviced cutting tools for the auto, home building and home renovation industries. I was a service rep for the company, and travelled throughout south central Ontario to call on my customers. I enjoyed the personal contact, but driving in winter could be difficult. Although I have a wife, children and grandchildren and a property in Tobermory to keep me busy, I want to participate further in the community where I grew up.
For over a year I have been involved with several eight week programs run by the Alzheimer society called ‘Minds in Motion.’ This is an important program for individuals with early to mid stage dementia and their care partners. As part of a group of about 16, the person with dementia and their partner are introduced to a few fun exercises, and an interesting discussion period that follows. These exercises are run by professionals in the field of dementia who bring a warmth, and understanding to the program. It is important to understand the emphasis is not on ability or performance. An eagerness to have fun is all that’s needed to succeed. Couples gain confidence not only as a result the program but more importantly as a result of the interaction with other participating couples. As a volunteer I facilitate the 3 hour program, by helping with setting up chairs and tables, and other such tasks, however most of my time is spent just talking with the participants. The people I have met through this program have been an inspiration to me. They have much to offer.
”When I tell others how I volunteer for the Alzheimer society and people with dementia they say it must be difficult. It’s not. I tell them volunteering for this program, without a doubt, has expanded my world.”
My mother lived with Alzheimer’s. Although the disease took much, it didn’t take everything. For this reason I enjoy volunteering for this program, and seeing the character and strength of the participants.
As a male front line volunteer with the Alzheimers society, I have come to understand that for whatever reason male participation is lagging. Most care givers in the ‘Minds in Motion’ program are women. I encourage male care givers to seriously consider this program. An open mind is all you need. It will be time well spent.
I have been volunteering with ASWW since January 2012. I started volunteering after I experienced the pain of losing my father to Alzheimer disease. I saw my mother and other family members struggle with a magnitude of emotions. I am passionate about supporting others who deal with cognitive problems as well as supporting their care givers. One of my greatest wishes is to find an answer to eliminate this disease.
I've had many volunteer roles with ASWW. I'm currently assisting with social group meetings, I volunteer at the Walk for Memories, I've been part of the committee for the Purse-suasion fund-raiser and I also helped out in the office.
“To anyone thinking about volunteering for ASWW I would say “just do it!” You'll get more out of it than you'll give. I've met some amazing people and developed wonderful friendships through the years.”
I was born and raised in Guelph and am the third of four children. I have a son and daughter and celebrate having three granddaughters and a grandson.
For the last year and a half I have had the pleasure of being a volunteer companion to a wonderful woman—Joan. I very much look forward to our weekly afternoon visits. During our time together we have gone for walks, reminisced over photo albums, had sing-a-longs, manicures and played games on the IPad. Not every visit is active or interactive; sometimes we just sit and talk or watch an old movie. The relationship Joan and I have formed is a very special bond.
"I would like to let potential volunteers know how very rewarding the volunteer companion program is. You not only support the person with Alzheimer's disease/dementia, but the caregiver and family as well."
I became involved in the Alzheimer Society when I retired from working in health care after 27 years. As I watched my father suffer from this terrible disease and saw how he enjoyed the company of his volunteer companion, I knew where I was going to focus my time. My father's volunteer companion was also a welcome visitor for my mother, who was my father's full time caregiver.
I have volunteered with a number of organizations over the years, but the Alzheimer Society is close to my heart since my father's diagnosis years ago. The Society was always very supportive to our family and my mother.
In closing, I would like to let potential volunteers know how very rewarding the volunteer companion program is. You not only support the person with Alzheimer's disease/dementia, but the caregiver and family as well. I know that Joan's husband gets as much out of my visits as I do.
My name is Crystal. I am a Pisces—I love the water and am full of grand ideas. I am third of six daughters. I was born in Kitchener, grew up on a beef hobby farm just outside of Ayr, and moved back to Kitchener when I attended Conestoga College. When time allows I love to read, do crafts and garden. I also love camping, and each summer I try to spend as much time as possible at Long Point Provincial Park on Lake Erie.
"The staff and volunteers at ASWW are friendly and welcoming, making coming into the office a pleasure. Volunteering here makes me feel like I am giving back to my community."
At Alzheimer Society Waterloo Wellington (ASWW) I help with donation receipts. My job is to create receipts for each donation made to ASWW and update the donor address database. When extra help is needed I also fill in around the office; answering the phone, registering clients for events, collating mail-outs, etc. The staff and volunteers at ASWW are friendly and welcoming, making coming into the office a pleasure. Volunteering here makes me feel like I am giving back to my community.
The ASWW was my first contact when I decided to return to volunteering. My grandfather dealt with Alzheimer’s for many years and several other family members have voiced concern as they see potential symptoms in themselves. I wanted to be part of this important service in my community that affects more than 700,000 Canadians, including my own family.
I enjoy working with our aging generations and I believe in giving back to your community; they have an abundance of knowledge and experience to share; they deserve our respect and compassion and just a little goes a long way to making them feel like a VIP. I have previously volunteered at Queen Square Terrace, Cambridge and at Cambridge Memorial Hospital as part of the Volunteer Association.
Volunteering takes time and a willingness to give, but the feeling of accomplishment and contribution you get back makes it more than worthwhile. ASWW provides a vital service to people with dementia and an abundance of information for caregivers and those concerned and looking for answers about Alzheimer’s and related dementias.
In 2013, I moved to Guelph and started my retirement. I wanted to live in a smaller community so I wouldn't feel like I was anonymous. It has helped me become involved in my new community. I love flowers and plants, reading, walking and enjoy the arts community too. All these things stimulate and nourish me so I have energy to share.
Initially, I volunteered for the January 2014 Walk for Memories. Then an opportunity became available to volunteer as a Program Assistant with a new pilot project, called Minds in Motion. I participated in the pilot volunteer training. I've just completed the third eight-week program held in Guelph. It has been a wonderful experience. I work with an amazing Program Coordinator—Thayna Walter—and a great team of other volunteers, including Marie Schell, who leads the Exercise aspect of the program. I help with room set up, greeting our participants and helping with the mental stimulation games along with our other volunteers. I hate to admit it, but some of our participants have more stamina and flexibility than I do while we exercise.
"Volunteering is something I see as providing for a better future. We may never develop a cure for Alzheimer’s disease or dementia; however, we can certainly find ways to develop a better quality of life for all persons touched by the disease."
My father had Alzheimer’s disease, and my mother was his primary care partner. My mother's own health was impacted, and as she developed her own issues it became harder for her to keep herself well and rested. The Minds in Motion pilot project really appealed to me as a volunteer opportunity because it is a program where both the care partner and the person with dementia can enjoy an activity with others. It can help reduce the sense of isolation. I know that my mother would have loved this program because it would have allowed her an opportunity leave her role for a bit of time and be herself while moving to music. She could have developed an informal support network with other participants, as well. She could have relaxed a bit as my father enjoyed the friendliness of the other participants. At a certain point my older and younger sisters became primary care partners for both my parents, and they both would have enjoyed the benefit of this program with my father.
The biggest reward in volunteering for is almost selfish—when I finish volunteering I am just pumped with the feel-good endorphins from the exercise. I also have the privilege of learning from others what ordinary things are truly meaningful. The best reward is seeing over the course of the program how the participants smile, laugh and relax more and more.
Volunteering is something I see as providing for a better future. We may never develop a cure for Alzheimer’s disease or dementia; however, we can certainly find ways to develop a better quality of life for all persons touched by the disease. As a volunteer, you can be part of a large family making someone's future better, whether it is for an afternoon, an event or years. I encourage you to share your strengths and gifts with your community in a volunteer activity that speaks to you.
Between May and December of 2015, Meagan McGill spent two hours of every week with her friend Reg, an 83 year old gentleman with Alzheimer’s disease.
She was volunteering with the Alzheimer Society of Waterloo-Wellington, acting as a weekly companion for Reg. Together, Reg and Meagan watched some of his favourite shows, listened to music, and enjoyed conversation. Meagan also got to know Reg’s wife and primary caretaker, Lorraine. "I’ve learned,” Meagan says, reflecting on her experiences, “that it’s incredibly important for both the person living with Alzheimer’s and their care taker to have a strong support network."
“I know firsthand through my own family’s experiences with my grandfather that having people who are there and willing to help can reduce the stress and make this journey a little easier for everyone involved.”
Through her weekly visits with Reg, Meagan was that positive force in his life. Reg looked forward to her sessions and in between them, he often asked Lorraine when “that girl” would be stopping by again (Lorraine and Reg are pictured, right).
There were challenges involved in working with a patient with Alzheimer’s. Communication was a struggle at first, Meagan reveals. "When it comes to Alzheimer’s disease, every situation is unique so having an open mind is key. I made mistakes along the way but eventually figured out how to talk to Reg so he would get the most out of my visits. I kept my questions simple, let Reg decide what we would talk about, and made sure our visits were fun and stress-free for him."
“This kind of community support is just as important for the caregiver as it is for the person with Alzheimer’s, and it’s honestly one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had.”