National Volunteer Week is an opportunity to share the impactful stories of volunteers who weave us together – volunteers who bring Hope Close to Home in Southwestern Ontario for people impacted by Parkinson’s disease.

“To me it is a question of fairness. It is only fair that people with Parkinson’s get the attention they deserve, from the health care system and government.”

Meet Theresa

Volunteer Location: Guelph

Please share three words you would use to describe yourself.

driven, optimist, joyful or bossy & opinionated, take your pick!

Tell us a little bit about yourself

I grew up in the steel city of Hamilton with 6 brothers and 2 sisters, so I am most at home in a crowd. My father was a doctor and my mother, a nurse, so I became interested in all things medical at a early age. I became a nurse in 1973 and followed that with a post graduate degree in social work in 1993. As my career developed I received training to become a capacity assessor which meant I was called upon to assess the capacity of a person to make financial or personal care decisions. My work kept my attention for 40 years. As I tell my grandchildren…I have never been bored, not once, not ever! I thought I knew Parkinson’s disease from my studies and my work, but facilitating this group taught me so much more.

What interested you about becoming a volunteer at PSSO?

My beloved cousin Barbara, who was a nurse, like myself died of MSA (Multiple System Atrophy). I was so touched by her courage and dignity that I dedicate all volunteering I do with PSSO in her name. In 2014, I also thought that facilitating one PD meeting a month (with 10 people attending) would not be too difficult and would allow me to ease into retirement. 9 years later and with an email list of over 100 people and an extra meeting for care partners, I had no idea how passionate I would become about providing support and advocacy for PWP (People/person with Parkinson’s). I had worked with the Alzheimer Society since the 80’s and watched how it grew. The same will happen with the Parkinson’s Society. To me it is a question of fairness. It is only fair that people with Parkinson’s get the attention they deserve, from the health care system and government.

How long have you been volunteering with PSSO?

I have been running the group for 9 years

Tell us more about your volunteer experience with PSSO and how you are involved?

I transitioned our support group to PSSO because I was looking for more regional support for the people in Guelph and Wellington County. PSSO provides DIRECT care (dance, choir, speech pathology services, a social club) for PWP so I can see, everyday the positive impact PSSO has on the lives of PWP. I have been able to work with and know the staff at PSSO which makes me feel like I am truly part of the organization. And now I have the lanyard to prove it!

What is something unique or interesting about you that others may not know?

As well as facilitating 2 support groups for people with Parkinson’s and their care partners, I also volunteer for our local Guelph Humane Society. Since I am a retired nurse (having spent some of my career in the neonatal intensive care unit) I have been asked to foster neonate and young kittens and their mothers. While this appears to be a “dream job”, to spend time with cute kittens (it is!), there is also much responsibility to ensure the babies are gaining weight, eliminating and being socialized. But I will admit there are times I can be found, asleep in a lazy boy chair, with 6 kittens sleeping on my lap! I am convinced that purring is the intention sound of peace.

What do you enjoy about volunteering and what motivates you to continue?

As an old social worker, I enjoy advocating for people, to get them the care and attention they deserve. I have been amazed at what I have learned about PD and the many non motor symptoms. And I am humbled by the courage and dignity of people who keep moving even in the face of a heartless condition. I even started exercising more because of the exercising a person with PD is asked to do.

Are there any special memories from your time volunteering with PSSO?

1. My greatest memory is working with Meagan (Community Engagement & Volunteer Coordinator) and Bill Robson to plan for the presentation to facilitators. It was always a mix of hard work, laughter and real compassion

2. I was so touched once when Shelley (CEO) went to bat for one of our members. I was impressed that she would do that. She has the ear of so many professionals.

3. And a highlight was receiving Woman of Distinction from my support group. What an honour!

See More Volunteer Stories

Meet a few of the people behind bringing Hope Close to Home

National Volunteer Week