Volunteer Story: All About Family & It’s All About the Food

In March 2006, Selma Grant z’l joined the Betel Centre. She participated in computer and exercise programs and used the chiropody services. She had a passion for travel and went on several trips with the Betel. In December 2008, she joined the volunteer team serving meals for the Café Europa program and assisting in the cafeteria. She then changed roles and volunteered at the welcome desk. Sadly, Selma passed away in September 2021. She was a good friend and offered support to many during her time at Betel. Those who were fortunate to know her remember her warm smile, unique sense of humour, and compassionate heart.

Her daughter, Cari Galin, was actually the first of the family to have a connection with the Centre years before her mother joined. Cari was a teacher at Rockford Public School and initiated an intergenerational program with Betel. The students came to the Centre to participate in programs with the seniors and the program ran for one year. Many years later Cari has returned to the Betel Centre to volunteer with the Meals on Wheels program.

Cari’s daughter, Marni was hired for a summer position in 2017 and then returned in the summer of 2019. During those two summers, grandmother and granddaughter contributed much to the Centre and the members. They both had the same generous, compassionate, and positive spirit.

Cari also shares her mother’s and daughter’s passion for making a difference. She volunteered as a Big Sister for Big Brothers Big Sisters and cannot believe her Little Sister is in her forties. Cari now devotes much of her time to the Bruno Project whose goal is to find homes for stray and unwanted potcake dogs from Saint Lucia. It was on a trip to Saint Lucia with Marni, when Cari first visited the Caribbean dog shelter and immediately wanted to help. Back home in Toronto, she assists with the coordination of the transfer paperwork and on the evening of our interview was going to the airport to facilitate the arrival of seven dogs.

Ros Galin is Cari’s sister-in-law and also volunteers with our Meals on Wheels program. When Ros retired six years ago from a career as a Project Administrator for a large furniture company, she became a palliative care volunteer at Evergreen Hospice in Thornhill. Earlier in life, she volunteered with the March of Dimes, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and at her local school. At Evergreen, she attended a one month training session to become a palliative care volunteer. Just prior to the pandemic, the woman she was supporting for three years passed away. During their visits, they would talk and play gin rummy. Towards the end, Ros visited every day.

Married to two brothers and sister-in-laws for almost 30 years, Cari and Ros socialized during holidays but both were busy with children, family and life. It was when they were clearing out her mother’s apartment, Cari suggested to Ros that they volunteer together at Betel. Cari knew how much Betel had meant to her mom and this was a way to honour her memory. Cari also selected a piece of artwork from her mother’s apartment that is now hanging in the staff lounge at the Centre. Every Thursday afternoon, Cari and Ros arrive at the Betel, put on their aprons, head covers and gloves, and assist with meal prep and packing. When their two-hour shift is over, they go to visit with their husbands’ mother who is 92 and still lives in her own home.

As most of Cari’s family lives in New York, Selma worried that Cari would be alone once she was gone. Together Ros and Cari have found joy in volunteering and a new found friendship and bond. “We like assisting with meal prep – we like the people we are volunteering with and it is a good cause. You feel better when you leave.” Although Selma reportedly was not a good cook, she choose to volunteer serving meals and working in the cafeteria. Today, Cari and Ros are assisting with meal prep. Cari remembers that her father and mother volunteered at a lunch program at their school when she was young.

As Ros says, “it’s all about the food.” It is also all about family.

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