When Sandra Will began volunteering in the 1980s the Uxbridge office of the Durham Region Community Care Association (Community Care), as it was known then, ran out of a Yellow Brick Road toy store on Main Street. Later the office moved to a storefront and finally to its current location on Marietta Street.
A lot has changed since the 80s but one thing hasn’t – Sandra’s love of volunteering.
Sandra started volunteering at Community Care while she still worked as a court reporter in Whitby. Once she retired, she began spending more and more time with the organization.
Now 83 years old, Sandra has seen a lot in her 40-plus years of volunteering at CCD. “The 40th Anniversary History of Community Care Durham”, which is posted on CCD’s website, includes many memories of her first twenty years with the organization.
Sandra said she started volunteering because she wanted to give back to her community and meet new people.
“I’m a person who likes people and enjoys company,” she admitted.
“When I started, I was answering phones,” she said. “I’ve done fundraising, helped with tag days, bazaars, I was a Meals on Wheels driver and I’ve done dishes, cooking, cleaning. I’ve done a lot over the years.”
She remembers when Community Care’s Luncheon Out program started, a program she helped established when she recognized that seniors, including her own mother, needed more social interaction. Back then it was called Luncheon Date. Sandra said it was popular from the start and its popularity only grew over the years.
“That is why it’s so disappointing COVID-19 has interrupted it,” she said.
“It (COVID-19) really has been difficult but we’re dealing with it the best way we can,” Sandra said.
A widow, Sandra lives with her family in her home. Her son, his wife and children all live with her on her property. The home is large enough for all of them and the company is nice to have, she said.
“If I wasn’t living with my family, I don’t know what I’d do,” she said.
She has many friends stuck at home alone, so she feels fortunate to be surrounded by family. Sandra checks in on her friends frequently, phoning them if she can’t get away to see them.
Sandra said Community Care Durham has been a big part of her life. There are a lot of local families who have volunteered their time and supported CCD over the years, she said.
“We’ve supported them (CCD) for a long time,” she said.
Another organization where Sandra volunteers is the Uxbridge Cottage Hospital Auxiliary. She stays involved providing drives and helping at Chances Are, the secondhand thrift store at the hospital.
Volunteering during COVID-19 is not the same as it was pre-pandemic, but she’s adjusted. It’s the many, daily personal connections that are lost that Sandra misses most.
“I’m missing it now I can tell you,” she said. “Volunteering, meeting people, it’s just so rewarding.”
Looking back at the past year-and-a-half, Sandra admits it’s been frustrating dealing with numerous lockdowns. It may have limited her volunteering time but there’s nothing else she’d rather be doing. It’s part of her DNA.
“When you do something for so long, it becomes a habit. I’ve made a lot of friends along the way and that’s what I enjoy the most,” she said.