For 126 years Carefor has existed largely due to the passion, commitment and skill of women who have seen the need for quality home and community care in their communities and taken it upon themselves to provide it. They have given so much of themselves for others, and in so doing have helped inspire generations of girls and women to seek a path for themselves while helping others.
This International Women’s Day we spoke with the longest-serving staff in each of our three regions about why they joined Carefor (then VON), why they’ve stayed and how their jobs have changed through the years.
OTTAWA: Grace Carpenter, Registered Nurse, 36.75 years
When Grace Carpenter started as an RN at Carefor nearly 37 years ago it was a very different place. So different in fact that it wasn’t even Carefor; it was the Victorian Order of Nurses. More than Carefor being different, providing in-home nursing was especially so: “All the things we have now we take for granted,” she says. “We didn’t have cell phones. We’d have to go into the office two times a week to plan the week with all the other nurses. I’d spend forever on the phone...When I was at a client’s house, I’d borrow their phone to call my next client. It’s just the way it was.”
She moved to Ottawa from New Brunswick after university, starting at the Civic Hospital in 1986. “I couldn’t stand it,” she remembers. “I hated the 12-hour shifts, the shift work and working nights…I was new and low on the totem pole. I saw myself having to be there for many years so knew I had to go.” While studying nursing in New Brunswick she did a placement with VON and really enjoyed home care so after a year at the Civic made the switch and hasn’t looked back.
When asked what has kept her working in home care with Carefor for nearly 37 years, she says, “I love my clients. When you visit a client, you’re all theirs…My supervisors are wonderful. There’s ongoing training and support. I’ve really appreciated the opportunity to learn. They build their training into our work so we can be better and more proficient in our field.” She also speaks about the flexibility her work has afforded her in raising her young family going from fulltime to parttime to casual back to parttime.
Today she’s part of the South-East nursing team but remembers driving her old VON car through North Vanier having to pull a muffler off on the streets of Rockcliffe. “It wasn’t great branding with the VON logo on the site,” she laughs and remembers how nurses had a fleet of cars and a mechanic on staff to keep them on the road. While much has changed, her spirit for providing care to her community’s vulnerable in their homes has remained constant.
PEMBROKE-RENFREW COUNTY: Angela Mulligan, Supervisor, Dietary Services, 23.75 years
As one of Carefor Pembroke-Renfrew County’s longest-standing employees, Angela Mulligan has seen so much and has been part of so many residents’ lives. “I remember the day I applied over 20 years ago I walked my way to the Civic Complex retirement home and handed in my resume to Mary McBride and I remember leaving thinking ‘just give me an interview’ and within a week I was hired. I had been working at a local convince store and raising my daughter. I needed a change to better support my young family so applied to Carefor”.
Having started as a dietary team member Angie was able to apply and get the position of cook giving her more hours, which led to the position she has had for eight years as the Supervisor of Dietary Services running both dietary teams at Carefor Civic Complex and Mackay Centre.
When asked about the impact her job has on residents, she responds, “I think of the team mentality we all have here working at Carefor. For example, we all had to shuffle from Civic to Mackay Centre and a couple of other hotels when we had a fire at the Civic Complex. Every single staff member put in the extra time and effort to keep the resident’s spirits up and make sure they continued to live their best lives. It’s moments like those that make you feel grateful that you are part of a team that cares so much. Even seeing the dietary teams setting the tables specifically for each individual resident is something that shows how much our staff cares about the residents.”
Having been part of the Dietary team for over twenty years Angie has seen and helped many of the incredible and resilient residents that call Carefor Home.
EASTERN COUNTIES: Caroline Rooney, Supervisor, Nor-Dun Seniors Support Centre, 29.25 years
Caroline Rooney’s career at Carefor started over 29 years ago while she was a volunteer for VON’s Meals on Wheels committee. She remembers, “When the opportunity came up to work for VON, I opted to apply for the job. My mom had been a nurse so it was pretty special that I had the opportunity where I could work for an organization of nurses. At the time it was a part-time secretarial and part-time cleaning out the building because there wasn’t enough for full-time hours, so it was a combination of both roles.”
“I have thoroughly enjoyed my years with Carefor and learning the many aspects of the various jobs. I was very proud to be part of an organization that had such a wide range of services to offer clients.”
Caroline says that her favourite part of working with Carefor has been the opportunity to meet with clients, caregivers, and families, and often seeing them through till they’re moving to retirement or long-term care. “You see firsthand the whole continuum of care and being able to help them from the beginning to end for what we’re able to offer them for programs and services.”
Over the years, she has changed positions at the Carefor Nor-Dun Centre as they came available. “I started as a cleaner and secretary, and eventually over time moved into a supervisor position. Although the role came with more responsibility, Carefor supported me along the way with different training opportunities. I work with a very supportive management and site-level team, and really embraced being part of an ever-evolving team approach.”