“I’m either Dad, Uncle, or Grandpa around here.” That is the way that Roger, a long time Bissell Centre volunteer, likes to introduce himself around the community. As he puts it, “I’ve got around two hundred street sons and daughters, and about five hundred street grandchildren.” To many community members and visitors to Bissell, Roger is more than a trusted friend – he’s practically part of the family.
Roger has a stocky build, iron gray hair that is nearly white around the temples, and a ready smile that creases his face with little provocation. He has been volunteering for Bissell Centre for over two years, but before that, he was a regular visitor to our Drop-in Centre. “I used to come here for coffee and that on the weekends, and one day they asked me if I wanted to volunteer for the Community Closet. I said, yes I would!”
Before he became a volunteer, Roger’s life was not without its share of troubles. “I lost a sister and a niece to an impaired driver,” he says. “And I lost a granddaughter to an impaired driver. And I got no use for that, people coming too close to kids when they’re drinking.” In the past, Roger has also struggled with homelessness and poverty, going back and forth between temporary homes before he at last got a place of his own in the inner city. Now that Roger has a reliable place to live, he devotes most of his free time to helping others in need.
Roger’s desire for helping others was what drove him to start volunteering at Bissell Centre, offering support and assistance to people who now struggle with the same difficult circumstances that he once faced.
When he’s not at Bissell, Roger is also involved in a volunteer street patrol. All of his volunteer work keeps him busy, but Roger shows no signs of slowing down. “I’m coming up on sixty-seven years old,” he says, laughing, “but I don’t think I’ll retire until I’m about one hundred and eight.”
It is truly an inspiration to see someone like Roger, who has witnessed far more than his fair share of tragedy and personal struggles over the course of his life, devote himself so completely to improving the circumstances in his community.
We are proud to call Roger part of our Bissell Centre family.
New underwear is one of the most requested items by people who use our services, but one of the least donated. Men and women are often denied their request for undergarments because we simply have none to give.
Women are especially likely to be denied since women’s underwear is less frequently donated than men’s. When possible, they are offered the alternative of wearing men’s underwear, an experience that, apart from being physically uncomfortable, causes embarrassment and a reduced sense of self-worth. Our #DropYourGonch campaign aims to fill this desperate need by stocking our Community Closet full of clean, fresh underwear for participants to use.
We all know that it’s important to change our underwear every day, but some of the reasons why may surprise you. Here is a list of five reasons why clean underwear is critical for a person’s physical and emotional well-being.
Not changing your underwear regularly causes microbes and other bacteria to accumulate and fester, often causing an embarrassing odour and an itchy rash on the skin. To maintain hygiene and cleanliness, fresh underwear is a non-negotiable essential.
Wearing the same underwear for an extended period of time can also have severe consequences for your personal health. The microbes and bacteria mentioned above can cause dangerous infections if they stay in contact with the skin for long periods of time, and the most serious of these can even lead to deadly conditions like kidney failure or bladder cancer. Clean underwear is more than a convenience; it is imperative to one’s health, and can even save lives!
We offer free shower services at our Drop-in Centre, meaning participants who come in can get soap, shampoo, a razor, and other personal hygiene items, enjoy a hot shower, and leave feeling squeaky clean. And what’s the best part about taking a shower? Slipping into that nice, clean, fresh pair of undies when you’re done, of course! Our objective is to be able to provide every participant who uses our shower services with a clean pair of underwear. With your help, we can offer every participant that “just-showered-and-slipped-into-a-fresh-pair-of-undies” feeling, lending at least one small comfort to the people who need it most.
The unpleasant odours and other adverse health effects caused by dirty undergarments can create something of a psychological barrier between the wearer and other people. Inevitably, the individual’s self-esteem and comfort in social interactions may suffer as a result. This impediment can be especially detrimental when it comes to significant interactions, like job interviews – situations that are already stressful enough without any added worries! A clean pair of undies allows the wearer the confidence they need to have successful relationships and social interactions.
A clean pair of underwear can go a long way toward restoring an individual’s sense of dignity. The emotional toll of having to wear the same set of dirty undergarments for days, weeks, or months on end can be debilitating. A clean pair of underwear is more than a physical necessity – it can provide the recipient with a rejuvenated sense of dignity and self-worth. What gift could be more meaningful?
It’s easy to take for granted something as always having clean undergarments to wear every day. But for many people lacking basic life necessities, something so small really can make all the difference.
For the month of May, our volunteer spotlight falls on Marla, a two-year veteran volunteer whose smiling face can be reliably found at Bissell Centre every Tuesday. She has worked with the arts and crafts Community Participation program since January, before which she worked in the Community Closet distributing free clothing to people in need.
Marla makes time to volunteer around her part-time job at a charitable organization that seeks to alleviate poverty in South and Central America and parts of Africa. “It does great work,” she says of the organization, “but I also wanted to help out locally. That’s why I came to Bissell. My children are all grown now, and I’m at a point where I’d really like to give back to the community.”
When she’s not working or volunteering, Marla also loves to travel. Her volunteer work has taken her as far as Ecuador and Guatemala; in the future, she hopes to travel to even more new places, and is in the process of learning Spanish. She also has a strong artistic background that comes in handy during her Tuesday afternoon painting sessions, where she helps to instruct participants in arts and crafts.
When asked about her favourite memory with Bissell Centre, Marla recalls serving New Year’s Day dinner. “My family was volunteering with me,” she says. “My daughter and her boyfriend came along to help, and we were serving meals at the Drop-in Centre. That was very special.” Marla’s pleasant, approachable personality makes her well-suited to her volunteer role. As she explains, “I treat people here the same way as I treat my own friends. Some people are just going through a rough patch in their lives, and are just happy to share, happy to have an ear to listen.”
One of Marla’s favourite things about Bissell Centre in particular is the people she gets to work with. “Every staff member I’ve met here has been phenomenal,” she says. “The staff make such a huge difference – they are very caring people, all of them.”
And when asked what she would say to someone considering volunteering, Marla’s answer is immediate: “I would say go for it! Especially if you like people. For me the most rewarding part is actually working with the people you are helping. You really get more out of it than you put in.”
Thank you Marla for your continued dedication with helping people.
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