For 25-year volunteer Marg, being a part of the RMHC Toronto community is a privilege.
As a pediatric nurse, long-time volunteer Marg understands the vital role that RMHC Toronto plays for families with a critically ill child. In the early days of her 35-year career at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, some staff would actually bring pediatric patients home for the weekend when their parents couldn’t come see them. “Of course you can’t do these things now,” she says. “But it was commonplace then.”
For families who couldn’t afford to leave behind their jobs or other children – not to mention the cost of a long-term hotel stay in Toronto – having a sick child who needed treatment in Toronto often meant the child would have to be on their own.
“There were kids whose parents lived way up north and couldn’t see them,” she explains. “These children were all alone in the hospital.”
After her retirement from Holland Bloorview, Marg missed the meaningful fulfillment she got from her work. One day she happened upon a fundraiser selling cookbooks created from the recipes of the families and staff at RMHC Toronto.
“It was like a bolt of lightening,” she says, when she realized that she wanted to be a part of the mission to keep families together. “I wondered why I hadn’t thought of it earlier!”
She started volunteering at the Front Desk in our first House on Dundas Street – checking in families, answering their questions, and being there for support. In her 25 years with RMHC Toronto, she’s worked the Front Desk in all three of our houses where she enjoys being a point of contact for families.
“When families come in the front door, you know if they had a tough day or if they want to talk. Some of the hardest times are when parents come to our desk and they start crying. I usually start crying too. But something I learned as a nurse is that it’s okay to be sad with someone; it’s okay to show them that you have empathy.”
Throughout her tenure, Marg has watched RMHC Toronto grow exponentially, outgrowing first the House on Dundas Street, and then the second House on Gerrard Street, before moving to our current 81-bedroom House on McCaul Street.
“Each House had its wonderful memories. We really needed to leave that first House on Dundas because there wasn’t enough space. It was really nice, but there was only one bathroom per floor.
“The only thing I hated doing there was cleaning out the ashtrays. There was a smoking room in the attic and the weekend people had to clean it out. It was the only thing I said no to. I refused to do it!”
As Marg reflects on her legacy at RMHC Toronto during its 40th anniversary year, she has nothing but gratitude for her experience.
“Volunteering with RMHC Toronto has given me so much,” she says. “It’s a place of kindness and community, and it inspires people to be kinder and share a bit of what they’ve seen at the House with other people. We’ve seen a lot of sad things over the years, and it does make you aware of how everyone struggles. But it is a place where people come together to support each other, and it’s so special. I just feel so privileged to be a part of it.”
The RMHC Toronto story is filled with an unwavering commitment to provide the best care and compassion to as many families as possible, which would not be possible without our extraordinary community of volunteers.
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