My blessing

A vital part of our community is our senior population. An important part of my life is volunteering. So it made sense to put them both together and I decided to volunteer with McMan Youth and Family Services here in Fort McMurray. They match caring volunteers with lonely seniors needing companionship. Almost a year ago, Terri-Lynn took me to meet a lady who seemed like a good match for me. We both liked each other right away and agreed to start spending some time together. We go shopping, run errands, go to appointments, “do” lunch or just sit, talk and enjoy each other. She tells stories. I listen. We laugh. I even color her hair for her!

During the evacuation we lost touch with each other. She doesn’t have a cell phone and I had no way to communicate with her. It ended up that we didn’t see each other for over two months. When she finally came home, let me tell you, it was a very happy reunion for both of us! Like many people, she lost her refrigerator, freezer and all of her food but thankfully her apartment was ok. Her fridge had not yet been replaced but she wanted to be back in her own home so much, she made do with a small cooler for over a week until the new one arrived. Luckily I was able to refreeze the ice packs for her so her food stayed cold.

A collaboration between St. Aidan’s Society and the Wood Buffalo Food Bank helps seniors replenish some of their lost food by supplying them with a large food hamper. Any senior in Fort McMurray can access this service by calling Heather at St. Aidan’s who collects some basic information. She then goes to the Food Bank where Arianna has implemented this much needed service, picks up the hamper, delivers it directly to their home and stays to unpack the food! How wonderful is this? For the next while if needed, seniors can have a hamper delivered once a week, just by asking. I was fortunate to be there to help Heather with the delivery to my senior. She was so happy to receive this generous gift and could hardly believe that someone cared enough to think of her.

Many seniors feel isolated, lonely, frustrated and forgotten, even more so since the wild fires. They just want to be acknowledged, listened to and to feel special, just like we all do. They want a friend to spend time with and who will listen to their stories, wonderful stories of magical things from years gone by.

I am so very grateful to caring organizations like McMan, St. Aidan’s and the Food Bank. Thank you to all of you who really care about our “sometimes forgotten” citizens. So many people in our community are helped in many ways by many caring organizations in our city.

My senior lady and I have become very close. We enjoy each other very much. She is my friend. She is family. I love her!


Author: Valerie Winters

Valerie joined the staff of the United Way of Fort McMurray in March 2015. Born and raised near Bridgewater, Nova Scotia she moved here in February 2013 with her husband Scott. A big believer in volunteering and giving back to her community has always been an important part of Valerie’s life. After her son, Zack started primary school she devoted her time to helping in various areas of the school for the next six years. Then, deciding to re-join the workforce she prepared by returning to school and earning her Office Administration Certificate and Gold Medal award at the Nova Scotia Community College in Truro. Proud of her achievements and goals met, she has made many friends and learned much along her life’s journey. Valerie enjoys being creative, painting with water colors, reading books borrowed from the fabulous Fort McMurray Library, spending time with family and friends, keeping fit and of course volunteering whenever she can. Always feeling she receives more than she gives, one of the best things she received was her husband! They met through volunteering with the Big Brother, Big Sister Organization, both as “Bigs”. Shilo, Valerie’s “Little”, was maid-of-honor at their wedding. Valerie is thrilled to be working with the amazing team here at the United Way who has made her feel so welcomed from her first day onward. Being a part of such a wonderful organization is a dream come true.