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Russell student realizes how much a meal and a smile can mean

Acquiring volunteer hours is something that all teenagers need to do to graduate in Ontario. Often, students piece them together over their four years of high school and when they’ve fulfilled their obligation, that’s it.

While Brooke Holmes, a grade 12 student at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Russell, might have started getting volunteering hours by delivering meals for Carefor’s Nor-Dun Seniors Support Centre in Winchester to fulfill this requirement, the experience quickly become much more meaningful.

Brooke first found out about the opportunity to deliver meals to isolated seniors from a friend of her mother’s who posted on Facebook about her experience doing it. In October of last year, she delivered her first meals to clients living in the Beachcroft and Millview seniors apartment buildings next to Nor-Dun.

She admits that on her first day she was, “a bit nervous, worried about how the residents would respond,” but her anxiety was eased with the support of Nor-Dun supervisor, Caroline Rooney, who “took the time to walk me through everything and came with me for my first time.”

The act of delivering the meals is fairly simple: “I pick up the hot meals and name chart from the kitchen at the Carefor building. I then walk to the Beachcroft and Millview next door. I deliver to the names on the chart for that day and then return to the Carefor building.” However, Brooke realized that it’s so much more than just a meal, “I never thought about how such a small part of my day is such a big part of their day and how much they look forward to it.”

For many seniors, various factors in their lives prevent them from being able to get out of the house. This isolation has numerous negative consequences both mental and physical. While her visit may be short, Brooke shows how someone who cares coming by with a hot meal, a smile and a genuine concern for them can undo so many of the effects of isolation, even if it’s just for a moment.

“The best part is seeing their smile and how happy they are to see someone, have a little talk with them and hear their stories,” Brooke says. “It’s the highlight of their day.”

As is the case with volunteering, it’s not entirely about doing something for someone else; it can also be doing something for yourself. “I have made many new friendships, but one stands out in particular, Peter, and I can’t forget about his cat Puffs that always runs out to also greet me. Peter is just the sweetest person. He says he recognizes my knock and knows it’s me at the door.”

Despite having accumulated her volunteer hours, Brooke hasn’t stopped making her meal deliveries. “I have collected all my volunteer hours but still go because it makes me so happy to see the smile on the faces of the residents when they come to the door. I would absolutely recommend it to other students. It’s very rewarding.”

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