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Every week, Jim packs fresh food boxes and delivers them to individuals and families in need. Some are young adults starting out on their own, others are single parents who need a bit of a helping hand – all appreciate his efforts.
Jim is a volunteer with the Halton CAS. Besides the fresh food coordination and delivery, he drives children in care to appointments, visits with parents or other relatives, and day camp. He’s made trips to Barrie, Orangeville, and Niagara Falls to help kids and youth get where they need to be. He’s been at it for four years, after being introduced to the Society’s work by a friend of his. Today, he can’t imagine not being involved. “I honestly don’t know what I would do without Children’s Aid,” he shares.
He also admits that his experiences can be very emotional. He remembers times when he’s been affected by what he’s seen and heard. “At times people tend to blame the children,” Jim says. “You have to put it in perspective – it’s not their fault. What they need – what we all need – is stability.”
Jim, of course, keeps coming back to lend a hand – and a set of wheels – because of the many small moments that make him smile.
One Christmas, during his first year of volunteering, he was delivering bikes to families. One of his stops was to visit a family with children he had been driving. Jim dropped off the bikes and was pulling away when he caught sight of the mother, still in front of the house. “She was usually very shy and introverted,” he said. “But this day she was delighted. I glanced back at her and she did a little skip in the driveway. It made my day. It’s a story that has always touched me.”
Before he retired, Jim was a regional human resources officer for Canada Post. He used to be responsible for hiring an additional 5,000 employees for the Christmas rush. “I thought I had a hard job until I saw what it’s like here at Christmas time,” Jim says. “All that coordination and chaos. It’s amazing.”
The people at the Halton CAS are another reason Jim enjoys his work with the Society. He’s says he’s impressed with the way they interact and stay positive, despite the stress they must be facing. “In four years, I don’t think I’ve ever seen one person in a bad mood,” he says. “They are very happy, very professional, and always thank you for whatever you’re doing to help.”
Joan has logged thousands of hours over the 30 years she’s spent volunteering for the Halton CAS. She’s coached young women in labour, cuddled babies, pored over paperwork, and shared her experience at the board table. Through it all, she’s raised her own family and worked full-time, leaving evenings and weekends for her fun time. “Most long-term volunteers will tell you, ‘I get more out of it than I put in,’” Joan says. “I always say that I’m very selfish to volunteer. This is my fun time.”
Joan began with the Halton CAS in 1984 and has been volunteering on and off since then, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. Her early focus was supporting pregnant teens. She would support a young woman through her pregnancy as well as through whatever came next, whether adoption or first experiences as a parent.
Joan says that back then everyone pitched in. Joan once planned to be a social worker and did her schooling in that area, but worked only a short time in the field before turning her attention to raising a family. She says work now done only by workers was once done by volunteers. “We were involved with interviews, the intake process, even supervised visits in protection situations. The Society is much more structured today.”
Joan’s greatest memories were made when she was able to support the teens through labour and birth. “One of the first girls I was involved with had me there when the baby was born. They passed the baby to me and it was an amazing moment. Anytime I get to spend time with the wee ones is a great time for me.”
Today, Joan is proud of her colleagues on the Halton CAS board. “Everybody is really into this,” she says. “This is a real working board, very high-calibre. And we have workers and managers coming in to give us the real deal stories. It’s not just about budget and strategic planning.” Her appreciation extends to the people she calls “CAS heroes” – the kids themselves, and the talented staff. She makes special mention of the foster parents who are on the job 24/7 – for better or worse. “I find the courage exhibited by foster parents who do this year after year, sometimes for decades, is absolutely amazing. Even when everything works out for the best and one of their kids is adopted or goes back to an improved family situation, a little piece of their hearts goes with him or her.”
Joan says the Halton CAS is a protective presence that offers continuity in the community. “People in Halton know CAS is there. They know they can pick up the phone for themselves, for a neighbour, for their brother, or a friend and they will be treated with respect and confidentiality. It’s not the end of the world. Since CAS workers have been out there in the community and in the schools, so much has changed. People know support is there.”