Volunteers 2016

In their own words: Volunteer Stories from the Alzheimer Society of Oxford

Volunteers are the roots of strong communities!  We spoke to our volunteers about why they felt inspired to volunteer and we were delighted with their responses.  Learn more about some of our volunteers.

Bev McDonald 

Bev McDonald

When I was approached around 1997 by Shelley Green to become a volunteer at the Alzheimer Society, I had already been volunteering in the community with other organizations but felt drawn to use my time with this organization. Our family had recently been touched by watching a dear friend struggle with memory loss.

At the moment I am an office volunteer but have been a Volunteer Companion and was part of the first program at the Society to pair a Volunteer Companion with a young school age student. This was a highlight as the clients we visited really reacted well to having that young person join in on the visits. I learned much from that young volunteer too!

I am pleased to be able to help in many ways at the Society- in the office, raising money, setting up and working at the annual Walk, and holding Coffee Breaks. One of the great benefits is helping the wonderful clients and their families in a small way. However, the best benefit of all is seeing the compassion and commitment of the staff and being able to recommend, without hesitation to those struggling with dementia, that help is as close as a phone call. 


betty brown 

Betty Brown

Hello, I am Betty Brown. I have been volunteering at the Alzheimer Society of Oxford for nearly two years as an office assistant. In the summer of 2007, I was forced to retire from my managerial position in financial services which I had held for nearly 30 years. After two weeks of retirement, it became evident that I needed to volunteer somewhere to occupy my time. So for nearly seven years, I volunteered at the Southgate Senior Centre as receptionist/office clerk. In the spring of 2014, the decision was made to broaden my horizons and search for new places to volunteer. After several interviews at different agencies, the decision was made to select the Alzheimer Society of Oxford as my number one place to spend my many hours of spare time. Since being involved with the Society I have become much more aware of the early signs of dementia and have become astounded by the number of people it affects in Oxford County.

Since being involved, my most memorable moments have been preparing for and helping with the annual Walk For Alzheimer’s in January as well as assisting with special events such as luncheons.
Having volunteered for a few agencies, I have found the staff at the Alzheimer Society to be the most organized, friendliest, and the most appreciative people with which to be associated. It has been a pleasure to know every one of the staff and makes one appreciate the many hours of work they devote to organizing events and helping people afflicted with this terrible disease.

Noreen Holbrough 

Noreen Holbrough

I sort of fell into volunteering when my husband, a client, sang in an Intergenerational choir in London. When he wished to start a choir in Oxford, it seemed a logical place for me, mainly due to my recognizing the value and importance of music and my fairly strong organizational skills.

My main area of volunteering is with the Intergenerational Singers. Along with another volunteer, I have held two bridge parties as a Coffee Break fundraiser. I also assisted at the Walk For Alzheimer’s this year.

The joy on people's faces when they are singing is such a satisfaction. Volunteering has been a big part of my life forever. The Alzheimer Society is so appreciative of everything its volunteers do so it makes it easy to continue. Those of us affected by Alzheimer disease should be willing to promote the value of the Society and its programs.

Any volunteer work, large or small is appreciated by the Society, by clients, and will be rewarding to the volunteer. None of us can ever learn too much about Alzheimer’s. I encourage people to attend any of the Societies education sessions and talk with any employee about how you can help.

 Philip Vandermolen

Philip Vandermolen

As the primary caregiver of my mother who lives with dementia, I knew I would benefit from the knowledge and experience I would find at the Alzheimer Society of Oxford. I found the staff to be compassionate, understanding and knowledgeable as they directed me to the path which would best benefit my mother’s care. One of the first things I noticed was the positive energy in the office. It was at this point I knew I wanted to give back to this organization.

Throughout my first year, I have volunteered with Sheena in the fundraising department, at the spring golf tournament, the Walk For Alzheimer's in Ingersoll and Woodstock and most recently worked with Beth to promote the "Finding Your Way" program throughout Oxford County. My most memorable moment has to be volunteering at the Walks. They were so well run and I had a chance to meet many other volunteers who carried that same positive energy.

I think the biggest impact volunteering has had on me is in my mom’s care. The Alzheimer Society has not only directed me in getting a proper diagnosis and other medical care but also helped me understand the disease more so that I can be more understanding and sensitive to my mother’s needs.
If you are looking to volunteer in the community and are unsure of where to start, may I suggest a visit to the Alzheimer Society of Oxford, you will not be disappointed. This organization is very grateful for all their volunteers and is thankful for any time you have to give.
James Prole 

James Prole

I have been a volunteer with the Alzheimer Society of Oxford for approximately 3 years.

I started to volunteer as I have been involved with various organizations and when I moved to Woodstock, after retiring, I found that I needed something to do. By going to a seminar on Alzheimer’s disease I learned a lot and I decided that this is what I wanted to volunteer my time with.

I am now a Volunteer Companion. I find this very rewarding as there are many people suffering from Alzheimer’s, and their caregivers need time for themselves. A couple of hours a week make a difference in their lives and it feels great to know that you can help someone.

While volunteering with the Alzheimer Society of Oxford I have informed people about Alzheimer’s and they have had family members tested, some have tested okay but a few have been diagnosed with a form of dementia.

I encourage everybody to volunteer as there are many people and organizations that need your help.

 Rob Vande De capelle

Rob Van De Cappelle

I have a family member with Alzheimer’s and I needed to seek the support of the Alzheimer’s Society and when I did, it not only helped my family member but it helped me stay sane. I wanted to ensure that the next time someone needed that help, they had a place to go to assist them. 

I am currently a member of the Board of Directors and I have been involved with the Coffee Break fundraiser for a couple years. This last year I had a “Coffee Break” at a London Knights game.  The beverage of choice may not have been coffee but we had our “Break”, created memories and had a blast.

I volunteer wanted to ensure these services and programs are around for the next time someone like me needs them. By helping out with Coffee Breaks and being a member of the Board of Directors, I feel I am “giving back” or “paying it forward” in my own little way. It makes me feel like I am part of a bigger “movement” that not only makes me feel a little more part of the community but I also think it makes the community stronger.

Is there anything you’d like to say to help encourage others to volunteer for the Alzheimer Society of Oxford?

I have tried to lead my life under the impression that you are either part of the problem or part of the solution. If you want to be part of the solution then get out and give back a little. It will be returned to you tenfold. It doesn’t take much, an hour here or quick visit there. We all need help; it’s the people who ask for it combined with the people who provide it who really make the world go around!! 

Sandy Smith 

Sandy Smith

I volunteer with the Alzheimer Society, because I've seen first-hand the effects that dementia can have on families and if I can play even a small part in relieving some of the stress, then my volunteer hours are well-spent.

I am currently part of the Volunteer Companion Program, but I also assist at the annual Walk for Alzheimer’s. There have been many memorable moments during my visits with my 'matches', but one that stands out right now is the big smile of recognition and the welcoming hug that I got from my current 'match' when I returned after a month away. 

Being a Volunteer Companion puts me in awe of the caregivers who struggle daily with the disease and it has given me a greater awareness of the need for funds for research and for a national strategy to deal with ever higher numbers of diagnoses.

A couple of hours a week of a volunteer's time is nothing compared to the hundreds of hours the caregivers and families put in.  My initial reaction when I was asked to consider being part of the Volunteer Companion Program was "it would be very selfish to say I can't give up two hours a week of my time and who knows if I might be on the receiving end of this program some day. I want someone to be there for me, so I should be there for them today."


Andrew Szasz

I chose the Alzheimer Society for a number of reasons… but the main driver was my previous volunteer experience with our local chapter over 20 years ago, and wanting to explore new opportunities with them now that I had some personal and career experience to shore up my value to them. I started when I was in my early twenties, but there was a significant gap while I raised a family with my wife. I’ve been on the board for 6 years now.

I’ve had many moments that mean a lot to me now, but the first Walk For Memories that I spent volunteering with both of my children (daughter Paige and son Thomas) was the highlight. The main impact on me has been the awareness of the urgent need to advocate for the strategic planning that will be required for Canada to deal with the increasing impacts of dementia on our communities.

If anyone is sitting on the fence wondering if they should get involved, please take a leap of faith and come in and learn more about what you can do… we have a fantastic society in Oxford County made up of a wonderful team of staff and volunteers working together for the benefit of our community, you’ll love being a part of it!

Linda Vandevyvere 

Linda Vandevyvere

Of all the places in Oxford County, why did you choose to volunteer with the Alzheimer Society of Oxford?
I chose to volunteer in Oxford because we had benefited from the services of the Alzheimer Society when we were travelling on the journey with my mother who passed away in 2001. My husband and I have helped with the Walk For Alzheimer’s for 20 years, I think, and I have been a volunteer companion for the past 3 years.E

very visit has a moment, like trying to comfort and distract my companion when she is feeling like everyone has forgotten that she has gifts and value and wants to contribute. I find it very rewarding, and a bit of a challenge to come up with something different each week, but we enjoy each other’s company every week.

I find there is great value in helping someone during the most difficult time of their life. I find I am very much appreciated, which is very rewarding.
Danielle Hodgson 

Danielle Hodgson

I have been working in Long Term Care for about 7 years and I see daily the effect of Alzheimer's disease and related dementias. I decided to volunteer with Alzheimer Society as a Volunteer Companion so that I could help out caregivers and bring a smile to my companions face.  I have had a few different companions over the years and each one has brought a lot of joy to my life.

I've had a lot of great experience volunteering with Alzheimer's Society but a highlight for me has been with my current match. We have great conversation every time we are together and I can tell he enjoys sharing his stories with me and I enjoy listening. It has been nice for me to meet families and make a connection with my companion. It's very rewarding to know that I've brightened someone's day and helped out.

I think people just need to know that volunteering with the Alzheimer Society is great because the staff are very supportive and genuinely care about their volunteers and clients.  I would say that if you're looking to volunteer somewhere you should consider the Alzheimer Society because the impact you will make might just change someone's life for the better.  

Grace Forget 

Grace Forget

I believe that people living with dementia and their caregivers deserve the best supports possible. Being on the board gives me a way to be part of providing them support.

By volunteering for the Alzheimer Society of Oxford, I have become much more aware of the complexities involved in the effective management of the Alzheimer Society. If I could say anything to anyone out there who is considering volunteering, I'd say: Don’t be hesitant to be involved with people living with dementia.


Last Updated: 11/08/2017