May 10, 2022
Lori Beesley, Coordinator of Volunteer Engagement
A few weeks ago I had a conversation with my brother about our professional roles. We had both recently started to work from our homes due to Covid-19 and wanted to ensure we stayed connected to people. He asked what was happening with the SCHC volunteers and I said that we’d needed to tell everyone to stay home to be safe. The impact of not having the amazing SCHC volunteers and their help was felt immediately in many programs.
I thought a lot about the volunteers in the following days. I knew they wanted to feel connected to the clients they serve. Many of them had long time relationships with clients and had developed friendships. Some reached out, asking what was happening with various programs and expressed great concern over how people were doing. Some asked if Meals on Wheels was still being delivered and offered to help. Others asked about the community that uses the Food Bank and offered assistance to keep it running. In other words, the SCHC volunteers told me they were feeling disconnected and very concerned.
With public officials telling us every day it was necessary to stay home and practice physical distancing, I wanted our volunteers to feel connected, not only to SCHC but more importantly to the clients and community they were used to serving. One morning an idea popped into my head. I thought of asking the volunteers to write a message. It wouldn’t have to be long, just simple and straight forward. By giving the idea a name, I thought it might catch on faster. The goal was to provide some hope to the clients and lift their spirits. HOPE could become an acronym:
H = Happiness, O = Optimism, P = Purpose, E = Encouragement and Notes of HOPE was born.
I asked the volunteers to email me a Note of HOPE and I’d ensure it was delivered to SCHC clients. One Note of HOPE was attached to each Meals on Wheels delivery and one to each bag of food given out at the Food Bank. Approximately 300 people are served by our Food Bank every week. After sharing the idea with other staff, requests started to come in. The Manager of Community Support Services said her team could distribute them to their clients. The Manager of the Interprofessional Primary Care Team and Diabetes Programs said her team was still seeing clients requiring urgent care and wanted to spread the volunteer support there. Harm reduction workers were happy to distribute Notes into the community.
Within days of sending my request to the volunteers, I had received enough to get started. The first Note of HOPE was attached to every Meals on Wheels bag six days after the initial request!
Since then we have received over 75 personal and heartfelt Notes. One volunteer sent in an email with four Notes, then another four and a week later another four. Another volunteer wrote a poem along with a Note written by his nephew. We even went international! One volunteer was explaining the Notes of HOPE to their cousin, who lives in Holland. The next day she received a Note her cousin had written, which she asked her to translate and send in.
A special email arrived this week, filled with 12 Notes of HOPE. The Executive Director of Transition House in downtown Toronto is one of the volunteers in the SCHC Bereavement and Hospice programs. Transition House (http://www.thousetoronto.org/) is a supportive community for men in recovery from addiction. Due to the current pandemic, she is assisting with programming in addition to her regular duties. During one recent program, she explained to the residents how she is involved with SCHC and shared the idea behind Notes of HOPE. The residents were invited to consider writing one. She explained to me how meaningful an experience it was for many of the men, who were eager to give back and pass along a positive message to others in need.
One of the Notes read “Dear friend: I’m writing you today to introduce myself and say Hi! I would like to let you know that I am thinking of you and wishing that you find some peace in reading my words of hope in these times. The world is a beautiful place and full of beautiful people and things will get better. You deserve every moment of joy at these time.”
The reaction from our clients has been very gratifying. One client told me the Notes are wonderful and he looks forward to receiving them every week with his bag of meals. Another stated that the four words that make up HOPE are so positive and she is really enjoying how everyone is coming together to support one another at this time.
Pat, pictured above, wanted to pass along that she is very grateful for the Notes, and she finds them so lovely and uplifting. Another client had tears in her eyes as she received the Meals on Wheels bags with the Note, saying she is overwhelmed by the kindness of the volunteers.
Thank you to all of our volunteers who took the time to write a Note of HOPE. You will never know the true impact it has made and will continue to make in the lives of the many, many clients who receive them. By so generously sharing your hearts with others, you have helped encourage others to stay positive and strong. We can never thank you enough.