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Volunteering through COVID-19

Volunteering means something special for each and every one of us. It means even more when you’ve been doing it for over 30 years. For Mark and Joanne Floyd, longtime members of the Pembroke Bible Chapel, bringing joy to seniors who need it the most in their community has meant the world to them.

The stark reality of senior isolation hits close to home for Mark. When his mother transitioned to a long-term care facility a few years ago, he could see firsthand the challenges involved in moving from one home to another.

“These individuals need a lot of support, especially when they leave their homes and move to a place where they feel like their whole life has turned upside down,” he says. “Volunteering is incredibly important for retirement homes in order to make it work. Volunteers can bring various interests and expertise to the home, making people’s lives more rewarding.”

Since Mark retired three years ago, he has been looking for more opportunities to reach out to the most vulnerable in our communities. Nearly two years ago, he and Joanne began playing, singing hymns and giving inspirational messages at Carefor’s Civic Residential Complex and Mackay Residential Centre.

“We assume people in care facilities don’t experience loneliness or isolation, but nothing could be further from the truth,” Mark says. “We bring church to seniors who may have trouble leaving the facility or to those feeling lonely and isolated.”

Thinking back at the feedback of residents still makes Mark emotional, knowing that he’s touched someone’s heart.

“You don’t do it to get that feeling, you do it because you know it’s the right thing to do.”

The idea is to spread joy, connect, and brings words of encouragement to them. It sounds simple, but it has positively affected the lives of countless Carefor residents: “It’s a wonderful thing when you walk into a room and the residents light up.”

When our communities went into lockdown in March, Mark and Joanne got creative to reach out to residents. Like many of us now, they’re using virtual Zoom calls to meet online with residents.

“We’re still finding ways to give back,” he says, noting that connecting with seniors during this challenging time of heightened social isolation has never been more important.

Despite the challenges that virtual meetings have, Mark and Joanne still make sure seniors feel included, and are on the lookout for new residents to make them feel connected and supported.

Their daughter Megan Shepheard, who once accompanied them on volunteering outings, is now the Recreation Coordinator at Carefor Civic Complex. She jokes around that her father spends so much time with residents that one day he will move in with them.

Mark’s answer is touching: “When that happens, at least I’ll have friends there.”