Meet volunteers at Abbotsford

Constance McLeese volunteers at Abbotsford’s reception desk, among many other things.

By Julie Ireton

After retiring from a busy career as the director of education at a school board in Manitoba, Constance McLeese was ready for a low-key, stress-free job and it was okay if her new role didn’t pay.

Two days a week, McLeese volunteers at Abbotsford House at the Glebe Centre, answering phones, working on databases and helping with fundraising efforts.

The reward, she said, is keeping busy and meeting new people in a safe social space, especially during COVID.

“I was very busy in my career, so it’s hard to just go full stop,” said McLeese, who along with her husband relocated to the Glebe after retirement.

“It’s interesting and I can’t predict what I’ll be doing when I come in. Just whatever needs doing is what I’ll do,” she said. “If someone is concerned about something, I direct them to a hired staff member.”

Volunteers are essential to the work at both the senior’s centre across from Lansdowne Park and at the long-term care facility.

Whether it’s driving seniors to appointments, visiting elderly residents or raising money for various programs, volunteers help fill the gaps at the facilities.

McLeese started pitching in about six months before COVID hit. After the pandemic began, she started helping screen Abbotsford visitors, making sure people were vaccinated and filling out the necessary paperwork.

“We have a very fragile clientele, and we don’t want COVID running rampant over here,” she said.

Like many of the volunteers at the centre, she’s also an Abbotsford member, taking part in the water colour art courses and trying out Zumba classes.

“They have great teachers,” she said. “For Zumba, I was going outside my comfort zone. I’m not a dancer, and you need a bit of rhythm for it, but it is very non-threatening, and you certainly get exercise.”

“It’s a wonderful place.”

For Isla Paterson, her introduction to Abbotsford House began when her mother moved into the Glebe Centre long-term care home next door. She would take her to activities there. “She loved the outdoor garden, the music concerts, the teas,” said Paterson.  “I enjoyed taking my mother over there, so I became a member myself.”

The speaker’s events and the “how to use your cellphone” course are among the favourites for Paterson.

“I also joined their play-reading program. This is a unique opportunity. I’m really enjoying that. Six to eight men and women get together on Tuesday afternoon and we read plays,” she said.

Her mother was a resident at the Glebe Centre for six years before she died last winter. But Paterson continues to volunteer as the secretary-treasurer for the facility’s family council. This group meets once a month and advocates for the 254 residents.

She’s glad Abbotsford and its many activities are now part of her life.

“It’s a one-stop shop for information for elderly,” said Paterson. “You can call and get reliable information. They offer a meeting place, a place for exercise and intellectual stimulation.”

Abbotsford’s play-reading group meets every Tuesday.   Photos: Pat Goyeche

Abbotsford House and the Glebe Centre are always looking for volunteers. If you are wondering about volunteer opportunities, contact Lonelle Butler at volunteer services 613-238-2727 (ext. 353). If you are thinking of becoming a member, call Abbotsford or drop in any weekday at reception.

Abbotsford is your Seniors Active Living Centre. We are the community programs of The Glebe Centre Inc., a charitable, not-for-profit, organization which includes a 254-bed long-term care home. Find out more about our services by dropping by 950 Bank Street (the old stone house) Mon- Fri 9-4 p.m., telephoning 613-230-5730 or by checking out all The Glebe Centre facilities and community programs on our website

Julie Ireton is a journalist who contributes regularly to the Glebe Report on issues affecting Abbotsford.

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