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Three decades of caring: Caroline Rooney and an award well-deserved

Three decades of caring: Caroline Rooney and an award well-deservedIn November 1993, Caroline Rooney was hired at the newly built Nor-Dun Seniors Support Centre in Winchester. On November 16th, 2022, 29 years later she was awarded the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Award recognizing her contribution to the Dundas community through her work at Nor-Dun.

Her recognition was the result of a nomination by Lucy Garneau whose husband, Roger was supported by Caroline and her team for years at Nor-Dun. “These amazing programs lightened the load,” said Lucy whose husband received Meals on Wheels and attended the Adult Day Program at the centre, while Lucy also attended the centre herself making use of the Caregivers’ Support Group. “The Caregiver Program was a very welcoming program, and a much-needed release and fellowship of other Caregivers from the journey she was on.”

You can see that Caroline is both honoured and surprised at being recognized for something that she does every day: putting clients first. “I’m just doing the job I’m supposed to do and making sure Lucy is well looked after,” says Caroline. While being grateful for the recognition knowing that it means that the centres are doing what they were built for – to serve the seniors and people with disabilities in rural communities – she’s quick to recognize that the award is shared. “This award is on the wings of the team that I work with,” says Caroline, recognizing not only the team at Nor-Dun, but also her fellow senior support centre supervisors/team leaders and her manager, Dianne Kuipers. “It is the mentorship that Dianne has brought to our Teams”, praises Caroline.

Today, Nor-Dun offers a suite of programs and services which help rural seniors lead healthy and connected lives by giving them options for recreation, socialization and wellness. They make sure the clients are cared for, even if it’s as simple as a check in. This was the intent from the beginning when Nor-Dun and Carefor’s four other senior support centres in Eastern Counties were born out of a partnership between Carefor (then the Victorian Order of Nurses), The Ministry of Health, Long Term Care Division, the United Counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry, the Ontario Housing Corporation & the local Villages of the prospective centres, as they were then referred.

When Caroline started, she wasn’t even sure what job she was hired for saying it was a combination of administration, janitorial and other tasks that needed getting done around the centre. Then Nor-Dun only offered congregate dining and Meals on Wheels but its potential over the decades has been realized with programs and services being added based on community need and in consultation with clients, who take such interest in these centres that they see themselves as part of them. “The centres were ahead of their time when they were built,” Caroline remembers.

Over the past three decades there have been changes to Nor-Dun such as expanding to the lower floor with the help of the Winchester Legion allowing for more programs to be offered. Over time, Caroline pursued her education and moved to Program Coordinator and eventually to Supervisor. Throughout her time at Nor-Dun her philosophy has remained constant: “clients come first.”

Nearing retirement she looks back over her years at Nor-Dun and while some challenges have stood out such as the ice storm of 1998 and more recently the COVID-19 pandemic where almost all programs were suspended, above all she remembers the gratitude of the clients and families she serves. “Families let you know how important you are to them.”

Working with Winchester’s elderly community has been a blessing for Caroline as she has developed long and lasting friendships with many clients; however, as is the case with this type of work, it can be hard when a senior who has visited the centre for decades stops coming. They have all shared their lives together in what may appear to be the simplest of ways: having tea, delivering a meal, listening to a story. Each act may seem small, but Caroline knows everything her and her team do means so much more. That it’s a friend, someone to listen and to care. And for some people that means the world.

This is what Carefor’s senior support centres offer, but more importantly this is what people like Caroline Rooney, her staff and all the staff at Carefor’s seniors support centres provide to people in their communities.

We are grateful to Caroline for her caring and for representing Carefor in such an incredible way.