Sixty years of volunteer work

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The first association of volunteers at Hôpital Montfort was created in the spring of 1955 when Ms. LeFort, wife of the hospital’s architect, founded the Women’s Auxiliary Committee of the Saint-Louis-Marie-de-Montfort Hospital.

Every year, the Women’s Auxiliary organized a garden party. The proceeds of these events were turned over to the hospital to buy toys for children, furniture and medical devices. The Women’s Auxiliary disbanded in the 1970s, marking the end of an era.

A few years later, in 1974, Françoise Sylvestre, a member of the hospital’s Board of Directors, managed to persuade the Board to create an auxiliary/volunteer group. She assigned responsibility for its organisation to Agathe Bélisle, Marguerite Pigeon, Cécile Roy and Cécile Laplante.

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By 1975 they were ready to open the hospital’s first shop, “La Boutique”. Starting in 1978, and for many years thereafter, a strawberry and champagne social was held in June. It became the group’s primary fundraising activity. The Association operated the hospital’s first coffee shop, the Café Rapido, which later became partly a Tim Hortons.

In 1990, the group decided to acknowledge the contributions not only of the auxiliaries, but also those of the hospital’s volunteers, and adopted a new name – Montfort Auxiliaries/Volunteers Association.

The number of volunteers active at Hôpital Montfort has climbed from 170 in 1974-1975 to over 325 in 2010. It is estimated that the volunteers give over 60,000 hours a year to the hospital.

Easily identifiable by their blue smocks, the volunteers make friendly visits, form part of the palliative care team, and ensure a comforting presence in the emergency room, at registration centres, and in the various clinics and waiting rooms. Some volunteers choose to help staff in administrative offices, while others donate their time to the Boutique, Nevada ticket sales or the reception desk at the main entrance.

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As recruitment needs are never-ending, Volunteer Services has established a program designed to encourage young volunteers. Every summer since 2004, approximately fifty young people from 14 to 17 years of age have completed the 40 hours of volunteer activity required by the Ontario Ministry of Education to obtain an Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD) by working at Hôpital Montfort. It is a win-win situation for all concerned: patients as well as staff and the young people share an enriching experience that could have an impact on their career choices.

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These funds were proceeds from various activities, primarily the Hospital Boutique, the nutritional services (retail), and Nevada tickets.

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In 2013, the Association dropped the word Auxiliaries from its name to reflect its withdrawal from organizing fundraising campaigns.  It now intends to turn its full attention to volunteering in order to improve the quality of life of patients and the people around them.

Today, the mission of the Hôpital Montfort Volunteers Association is to contribute to the well-being of patients, their family members and staff by offering physical, moral and psychological support services.

Recognizing volunteers

Nowadays, a specific policy is dedicated to describing how Hôpital Montfort will thank its volunteers for their hard work.

During Volunteer Work Week, each April, all the volunteers are invited to a special dinner; they receive thank you letters from the CEO and the VP of clinical care. An advertisement is placed in the local newspaper; staff wear “thank you” buttons and write thank you notes for the volunteers they work with on a regular basis.

At the end of the year, volunteers who have done at least 50 hours of work are invited to a Christmas dinner, where they receive a token gift and the Volunteer of the Year award is handed over.

Longstanding volunteers get pins to mark each 5-year anniversary and a special certificate is handed to volunteers who pass the 1000, 1500 and 2000-hour milestone.

When a volunteer “retires” from the Association, they receive a letter from the President of the Association and the manager of Volunteer Services; those with over 20 years of experience as a volunteer will receive a letter from the Chair of the hospital’s board upon retirement.

The policy also states that the Association will send a “get well” card when a volunteer gets hospitalized for more than 2 days, and the hospital’s flag will fly at half-mast when a volunteer passes away.