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A VOLUNTEER’S STORY: ‘It’s important to get out and still be part of a community’

Editor’s note: According to Volunteer Canada, International Volunteer Day takes place every year on Dec. 5 to shine a light on the impact of volunteer efforts everywhere. The Chronicle is proud to tell the story of community volunteers.

Retirement gives seniors the great luxury of time.

What they choose to do with the time is up to them.

Ceciley White, 69, a volunteer at the Herizon House Crisis Facility in Ajax, feels seniors bring a great deal of impact to the community when they spend time helping others.

The Herizon House is a shelter for abused women and their children. White started at the shelter after a Facebook post during the bread pricing scandal at Loblaws in 2018. When Loblaws gave customers a $25 gift card for price fixing, White saw an opportunity to help those in need.

She made a Facebook post for anyone who wanted to send her their gift cards so she could donate the cards to Herizon House. She made a call to the shelter and from there she was volunteering weekly.

White was formerly a manager of promotions at a major retailer and had done volunteer work for Town of Ajax and some local political campaigns. She sorts donations at the shelter and took her organizational skills from her previous experiences and applied them to the volunteer work.

For her the satisfaction of volunteering comes from helping.

“It’s just a good feeling to see people appreciate what you’re doing.”

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, White had to scale back on the time she spent volunteering. One thing she’s noticed is a shift in the attention towards violence against women. She feels that abuse towards women was a more hidden subject before among the general public.

“I think with COVID, people understand that it’s out there in the community much more,” said White.

After White retired in 2014, she found what she believes is an effective way to stay connected with her community through volunteering. She encourages seniors get into volunteering to make up for lost connections.

“When you have a job, when you’re working, you’re part of a community, you lose that when you retire,” says White.

White says it can be hard on people to lose the daily experience of being around others.

The challenges around volunteering during the pandemic are tough, especially for people who are part of the most vulnerable age group. That doesn’t stop White and her husband Stephen from volunteering when they can.

Whether sorting through donations at Herizon House or collecting gift cards for women and children in need, the opportunity to improve and be involved in community is the driving force for the Ajax senior.

“When you retire you can’t sit at home and watch TV all day, you have to be involved,” said White. “It’s important to get out and still be part of a community.”