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Bond Head volunteers keeping hands busy during pandemic, sewing hospital gowns for frontline workers

When you do help out, 'it makes you feel good'
Eleanor Watt of Bond Head, busy making a quilt for My Sister's Place shelter for women and children. SUBMITTED

Sometimes, organizations looking for volunteers get a deal – two-for-one, in a manner of speaking.

Like Eleanor Watt and her husband Bob, who have been active volunteers in their community of Bond Head, and in the broader Bradford West Gwillimbury community.

Not only are they staunch members of Bond Head United Church, involved in the church’s Christmas Hamper program and Benevolent Committee, they are enthusiastic charter members of a Probus Club in Bradford, a social club for retired and semi-retired seniors.

“We’re really involved,” said Eleanor, who is not only charter member, but has played a role on the executive – enjoying every minute.

“It’s the socialization, and great people,” she said. Even now, with all of the barriers presented by COVID-19, the club continues to meet, online. At the last ‘meeting’, 84 members convened on ZOOM, to hear a guest speaker talk about the latest vehicles from Tesla.

“These seniors are quite capable,” she laughed.

Eleanor is retired from a career in palliative care, and also uses her skills to ‘give back.’

On retirement, she became involved in Matthews House Hospice, as a volunteer – initially providing in-home caregiver relief, but active at the four bed hospice facility that opened at Kingsmere in Alliston, coming in every week, and then bi-weekly.

Since the new 10-bed residential Matthews House Hospice opened, she has been less engaged – more of the work is done by permanent staff – but she is still full of praise for the hospice, and supportive of its financial needs.

“It’s a great organization,” Eleanor said. “They’ve kept a very homey atmosphere.”

She has also been a volunteer at the Helping Hand Food Bank in Bradford, assisting with client screening – but of course, during the COVID-19 pandemic, things have slowed down, with more physical distancing and fewer calls on volunteers..

“At present, I am doing so little volunteering,” she said, but she has found a new way to help out. Watt and several others in Bond Head have been sewing hospital gowns for frontline health care providers and staff in long-term care facilities.

And just now, she and other members of the Bond Head United Church Benevolent Committee are sewing “cosmetic bags” for the women at My Sister’s Place shelter in Alliston. The quilted bags, put together from scraps of material, are filled by the volunteers with personal hygiene items, and donated.

Eleanor not only sews but quilts, and has also already provided "a couple of quilts" to My Sisters Place. She’s working on another now.

“It keeps me busy,” she said.

Volunteering has been a key part of her life, and her marriage: Eleanor and Bob have been married for over 48 years.

“Bob and I do all these things together,” Watt said, both finding satisfaction in giving to their community.

“You enjoy doing things for other people. Your own problems disappear when you help others – you appreciate the fact that you’ve been given good health and resources,” said Eleanor. At the food bank especially, she said, there’s a sense that “there but for the Grace of God…”

Even in these days of COVID-19 closures, it’s possible to find ways to help. As Eleanor noted, you don’t have to do a lot; “You do what you can.”

And when you do help out, she said, “It makes you feel good.”