Provincial Recognition of Distress Centre Volunteers
National Volunteer Week — April 18th to April 24th 2010
The Spirit of Volunteerism Award 2010
Nominees & Recipients
very year Distress Centres Ontario recognizes the significant contribution of volunteers to the provision of distress line services
throughout the province. There are many amazing volunteers who provide these services and it was a challenge and a delight to
have to decide from among the nominees who should earn the 2010 Spirit of Volunteerism Award given in memory of Rev. Chad
Varah. These nominees have all demonstrated commitment to the values of volunteerism through their empathetic listening and skilled
interventions as well as engaging in the many activities that keep distress centres functioning, such as: fundraising, mentoring, serving on
their local boards and always striving to improve services to callers and the community.
Please join us in congratulating this year’s Nominees & Recipients
Michael Bennett | ReciPieNt - YouNg Adult community’s ‘star’ volunteers. After completing the initial training
Young Adult Volunteer, Distress Centre of Windsor-Essex County and orientation, Andrew became a role model and inspiration
Michael Bennett has logged thousands of volunteer hours for the to other volunteers and trainees. Not only is he one of the most
Windsor-Essex County Distress Centre since he started in 2005. enthusiastic volunteers, he also has a way of instilling confidence in
Within six months of working at the Centre, he became a training others with his thoughtful and confident demeanour.
assistant, has been a member of the Board of Directors since 2007 Andrew epitomizes professionalism and understands well
and active on the fundraising committee since 2009. Michael is the concept that we walk along with each and every one of our
currently helping to write a Policies and Procedures Manual for callers. Andrew’s character and the skills he is developing while
the Centre. To top it all off, Michael, who plays in a rock band, volunteering at the Centre will serve him well in his aspiration to
recently brought several bands together for a fundraising concert complete a graduate and post-graduate degree in sociology and
with all proceeds going to the Centre. The event was a great success someday work in behavioural analysis with the police force.
but most importantly it was the ideal opportunity to reach out to
youth – a challenge the Centre has been struggling with for many
Community Torchlight Wellington-Dufferin
years. Michael helped us achieve that goal in one night.
Equipped with a social degree and a wealth of skills derived from
Michael has shown initiative and leadership since his first day.
her previous career as a teacher of children with special needs, Karen
His dedication, leadership and reliability make him a valuable
Cressman is a beacon of inspiration on the Guelph volunteer team.
asset to our team. He is both a strong advocate for volunteer
Her calm and quiet manner goes hand-in-hand with her solid core
communications internally and a champion for the Centre out
values and inner strength. All who meet or talk to Karen are aware
in the community. His effortless people skills, particularly when
of her deep empathy and compassion for others.
handing the challenge of crisis and suicide calls, and his capacity
Karen, being a retired teacher, as well as being a loving mother
to remain calm and instil calmness in the caller are an inspiration
of four of her own children, has helped make her keenly aware
and guide for our entire team. Michael is the embodiment of
and respectful of the potential in others young and old. In her
volunteerism and leadership, and we are grateful to have him as
volunteer work she taps into this rich reservoir of experience and
part of our volunteer team.
empathy to help encourage others, while at the same time keeping
Andrew Brennan current with the latest changes and developments.
Community Torchlight Wellington-Dufferin Karen also performs a valuable support role for the rest of the
Since 2006, when Andrew Brennan was introduced to the idea Guelph staff. She is an important and much appreciated volunteer
of volunteering with the Guelph Distress Centre while studying and we are grateful for what she has brought to Community
sociology at the University of Guelph, he has been one of the Torchlight Wellington-Dufferin.
The Spirit of Volunteerism
in memory of Rev. chad Varah
John Davis Sue’s extraordinary talents, ranging from raising funds to raising
Distress Centre - Peel awareness, are matched only by her commitment to getting the
Since joining the Distress Centre Peel in 2003 as a telephone job done without compromise. She has helped raise thousands of
support volunteer, John Davis quickly earned a position of dollars over the years. In addition, Sue’s logical and methodical
leadership among his fellow volunteers. He is highly respected for approach is a model of organizational excellence. Over the past
his exceptional emotional dedication to each individual case and is 15 years as a volunteer at the Centre, she has never missed a
often called upon to train new volunteers. conference, planning session or meeting. All who have the privilege
Of particular interest to John is his concern for troubled and of knowing and working with her are inspired by her dedication
neglected seniors who may be suffering any number of serious and visionary advice. She has always preferred to work behind the
problems without available social or family support. A patient scenes. Without the many and varied successes Sue has created,
and empathetic listener, John is active on the Centre’s Elder Distress Centre Durham would not be where it is today.
Abuse Support Program, and he always makes himself available
to older people who are experiencing abuse. Sometimes the callers Stephanie Gordon
are victims of con artists or even members of their own families. Toronto Distress Centre – North Branch
Whatever the problem, John is always ready to help in whatever Stephanie Gordon has been a volunteer at the Toronto Distress
way he can. “The work at the Distress Centre is often not about Centre (North Branch) since March 2006. She has since served
setting callers on a road to change or recovery,” says John. “It is one regularly as a peer trainer for prospective and new volunteers.
of listening, supporting and helping callers through the day.” Working typically in a small group, she always helps to make the
learning atmosphere comfortable and beneficial thanks to her
Anselm De Souza creativity, cooperation and initiative. Stephanie’s wonderful sense
Toronto Distress Centre of humour has also been a great asset in a group setting.
Anselm De Souza, a teacher at Brebeuf College in Toronto, is an When it comes to delivering praise or constructive criticism to
empathetic and caring listener who in a relatively short two-year phone volunteers in training, she always shows great tact, and can
period as a volunteer with the Toronto Distress Centre has become be relied upon to write detailed evaluations of their performances.
a role model and leader. Anselm dedicates himself to at least one When answering a call herself, Stephanie shows exemplary listening
shift per week and often signs up for the more difficult-to-fill late skills. Her patient, non-judgemental approach reassures the caller
night and early morning shifts. He routinely helps by handling and sets up a relaxed atmosphere for the caller’s self-expression.
calls on the partner line with Toronto Emergency Medical Services In 2008 Stephanie completed her training for the Distress Centres
and volunteering with the Professional Association of Internes Survivor Support Program. In addition, she has been a leader in
and Residents of Ontario. Anselm also volunteers his time with organizing donation campaigns for people in need. Her knowledge
other organizations including Out of the Cold and St. Michael’s of community resources is excellent, allowing her to make referrals
Hospital. He is also a track and field coach. should the caller need extra support. She is a valuable member of
Anselm mentors new volunteers through every stage of their our team and we truly appreciate everything she does to further
development at the Centre where other volunteers and staff are out goals and to help make the Centre such an important player in
continually inspired by him. From his telephone skills to his the health and well-being of people in need.
creative approach to problem solving, Anselm’s wonderful attributes
cannot help but be instilled in everyone who has the pleasure and Wendy Guilemette
privilege to work with him. He embodies the attributes of the ideal Community Torchlight Wellington-Dufferin
volunteer who advances and enhances the beliefs and values of the In the last five years many Distress Centres in Ontario have
Distress Centre. He is an integral member of our Toronto team undergone dramatic switches of personnel, policy and structure.
and for his time and energy, we are grateful. Many longer term volunteers bravely endured the changes. Wendy
Guilmette is one veteran helpline listener who has stuck it out.
Sue Duchesnay | ReciPieNt As a volunteer at the Centre, Wendy provides a dignified and
Distress Centre Durham empathetic listening ear for callers in need from our community.
Sue Duchesnay started out as a helpline volunteer with Distress She is highly respected by other volunteers as someone who retains
Centre Durham in 1996. Over the years since then she has been a hidden strength and wisdom, keeping it in reserve for when it is
shift supervisor, a member of the Board of Directors, President of properly needed. Her kind and considerate demeanour makes her
the Board of Directors and is now past President. Her association a very personable team member and her problem solving talents
with the Board of Directors helped transform the Centre and led are always in demand, whether it be for volunteer peer workshops
to the Centre receiving a three year grant in 2003 from the Ontario or suicide prevention training. She has been an active member of
Trillium Foundation for the expansion of services. Sue was also many organizations in Guelph, including the Multiple Sclerosis
instrumental in two relocations of the Centre in 2001 and 2009. Society and she participates regularly in her church community.
The Spirit of Volunteerism
in memory of Rev. chad Varah
Catharine MacLeod | ReciPieNt In February 2006, Tom was asked to be the keynote speaker at the
Distress Centre of Ottawa and Region Centre’s 2nd Annual Suicide Conference. He spoke thoughtfully
The Ottawa Distress Centre receives over 20,000 calls annually. and eloquently as he shared his survivor story. He emphasized
Volunteers, like 10-year veteran Catherine MacLeod, offer callers the importance of a good support network to help get through
hope by providing a kind and calm listening ear. The commitment, tragedy. Tom brings that support network to his volunteer time at
energy and enthusiasm that she projects with care and confidence the Centre with every shift he takes.
are an asset to our community. Tom is a voice of reason at the Centre whether as a Board member,
Catherine was selected as a member of the Centre’s Crisis group facilitator, or helping out with the Centre’s Annual Suicide
Intervention Team in 2004. The team provides 24-hour back up to Survivor Walk or the new Suicide Survivor Call Out Program. Now
the crisis line and volunteers working the phone lines at the Centre. retired, remarried and enjoying life to the fullest, he continues to
Catherine volunteers at least 48 hours each month in this role. She give his time and energy generously and unselfishly. His hidden
has also participated in the United Way Speaker’s Bureau where she talents as a handyman have helped make our new location a home.
represented the Centre in workplaces around Ottawa sharing the He is a role model and an inspiration because he has felt the pain
positive impact that volunteering for the Centre has had on her life. both as a survivor and also as a supporter. Tom is a great man.
She sits on the Board of Directors and on the Governance/Strategic
Planning/Evaluation Committee and is very active in fundraising Christopher Pavia
events – from getting auction items donated to managing the Distress Centre Peel
collection of funds. Catherine also played an advisory role on the Christopher is a graduate of the University of Toronto and is
DCOR Festival of Chocolate fundraising committee, and this past working on completing his post graduate work in Human Resources
Hallowe’en organized her own independent fundraiser for family at Sheridan College. Despite his very busy schedule, Christopher
and friends which raised over $1,100 for the Centre. has found time to give back to his community and in June, 2008,
he began volunteering with Distress Centre Peel. One of the things
Dorothy McRae that inspires him is to provide a non-judgemental outlet through
Scarborough Distress Centre which distressed people may freely express themselves, without
Dorothy is a long-time volunteer who is passionate about helping fear of ridicule. Christopher derives a great sense of purpose and
callers in need. She has a very kind heart and is always willing to satisfaction knowing that his listening ear contributes something
provide support and empathy to any caller with whom she speaks important to the well-being of his community. He listens to the
on the Distress Line. Dorothy offers her time and wisdom freely callers with empathy and attention, offering valuable help to those
for a chat with volunteers new and more experienced. Dorothy is a suffering very difficult situations and comforting support to those
model volunteer because of the dedication and consistency of her who feel isolated and lonely.
efforts. She is like a rock on our shift chart – always available and As a young adult volunteer, Christopher has made an impressive
working towards helping our callers. Dorothy has remained strong contribution in the two years since joining Distress Centre Peel.
in her dedication to volunteering in general, and in particular, He regularly gives up his weekends and so far has clocked nearly
volunteering at the Centre. Her spirit of volunteerism can be seen 300 hours on the phones. Christopher is a team player who works
in her drive to support those in need. well and cooperates with the other volunteers. He is a well-liked,
The Centre has benefitted immensely thanks to Dorothy. She selfless, humble and sincere young man, who takes his commitment
is caring and dedicated and we need people like her at support very seriously. We are proud and grateful to have Christopher on
facilities everywhere. She strives to give back to the community our team and we believe he will be honoured and encouraged by
and help others. Every week Dorothy is at the Centre doing what this nomination.
she does so well – caring, helping, supporting and volunteering.
Tom Morris | ReciPieNt Young Adult Volunteer, Telephone Aid Line Kingston
Durham Distress Centre Despite the responsibilities of school work and a job, Elizabeth
Tom Morris experienced a terrible tragedy in 2003 when his wife Penn devotes herself to her volunteer work as Vice Coordinator
committed suicide. Devastated, he turned to the Centre’s suicide of Quality Assurance (VCQA) for Telephone Aid Line Kingston
support group in 2005. That decision and subsequent experience (TALK) with unfailing commitment. Elizabeth personally reads
changed his life in a very good way. Through his bereavement and comments on the notes on call report forms that are taken by
journey, he decided that he wanted to give something back. He the volunteers. She is always available to volunteers for support,
has been volunteering at the Centre ever since and in 2006 he advice and encouragement. She is constantly thinking of ways to
was recruited to the Board of Directors. In 2009 he became a peer tailor our service to the needs of the community that we serve.
facilitator for the suicide survivor group. He plays an important The role of VCQA is one of the top three positions within TALK
role in the group by sharing his story with other survivors. and Elizabeth fulfils it with dedication. Her exemplary leadership
The Spirit of Volunteerism
in memory of Rev. chad Varah
and positive attitude arise from a special enthusiasm for the job, communication which reflects our values and her consistency in
which others can only sit back and admire. helping clients is a tremendous contribution to our mission.
Elizabeth also participates in promoting TALK within the Mathura is a model of excellence and other volunteers look up to
community in such a way as to lessen the stigma sometimes her for inspiration. Mathura’s continuous dedication to making a
associated with distress centres. Elizabeth is a truly exemplary young difference has proven to be a valuable asset to the Centre.
adult volunteer and we are grateful to have her on our team.
Ron Pritchard Distress Centre Lanark, Leeds & Grenville
Distress Centre, Scarborough Sue Turner’s background in psychology and information
The overnight shift at any Distress Centre is always one of the technology have made a huge difference to the Distress Centre,
most challenging to fill. Overnighters are a special type of volunteer Lanark Leeds & Grenville. She devotes herself to everything she
and Ron Pritchard is exactly the man for the job. In the few years does, applying her talents and technical expertise to a wide variety
that Ron has volunteered at Distress Centre Scarborough, he has of tasks. She immerses herself in her community and volunteers
continually pursued ways to better his communication skills to at many charitable events. Sue often coordinates fundraising golf
help our callers. His enthusiasm and optimism keep him focussed tournaments for Interval House – a shelter for abused women and
on every individual call, no matter the challenge. Ron never stops their children. She is currently working on charity quilts that are
learning and it is this strong desire to master his skills and new made for donations to cancer centres, hospitals and shelters.
techniques that is so important for newcomers to see and hopefully Over the past six years, Sue has donated over 1,000 hours of
emulate. As an example to less experienced volunteers, Ron is a her time. Her active listening and strong communications skills
guiding light that only gets brighter and brighter with time. empower her to engage effectively with our callers. Her excellent
mentoring, teamwork and leadership also enhance the experiences
Paula Robertson of the other volunteers, both inside and outside the call room.
Young Adult, Distress Centre Durham Sue believes in the main philosophy of our organization and all
It was not until Paula Robertson had been working on the her interactions with our callers, staff and other volunteers are an
phones for several months that she realized she was following in integral part of our success. Whether it be as president of the Board
her mother’s footsteps: her mother was one of the Distress Centre of Directors or chair of the Advisory Committee, Sue inspires all
Durham’s original volunteers. Paula earned the nickname “Little of us to base our ultimate decisions and actions on the core values
Voice” due to her soft-spoken, gentle manner. She quickly gains the and mission of the Centre.
trust of both callers and other volunteers with whom she works.
Paula joined the Centre in 2006, while studying child and youth Dana Yates
studies at university. In 2007 she became shift supervisor and in Toronto Distress Centre (Downtown)
2008 she accepted a position on the training team. Dana Yates is a freelance writer who has been volunteering at
Every August Paula takes part in a Trainers Camp, where the team the downtown Toronto Distress Centre for nearly two years. Her
meets to discuss changes or improvements to the Centre’s training contagious warmth, energy and enthusiasm have made a strong
program. On one occasion she presented a “connectedness” model and lasting impression on our staff, volunteers and callers. Dana
at the Camp. Her presentation prompted staff at the Centre to has gone the extra mile with her commitment and taken on other
look more closely at training segments. responsibilities such as volunteer mentoring and peer support.
Paula’s commitment is an inspiration. She is the ideal young adult But most important of all, Dana connects extremely well with our
volunteer. Her volunteer spirit even extends to baking goodies for callers, and she is one of the few volunteers who can supervise and
the overnight shift. She is a joy to work with. act as a resource with new workers on their first shift.
Dana is an active volunteer in the City, offering her time and
Mathura Thiagarajah energy to many causes, including Second Harvest, Casey House,
Distress Centres, Scarborough The Arthritis Society, Child Find Ontario and the Canadian Celiac
Soft spoken, patient and compassionate are just a few words Association. Described by other volunteers as kind and friendly,
that accurately describe Mathura Thiagarajah. Since she began her warmth carries over into everything she does.
volunteering with the Distress Centre Scarborough over one Dana does an exceptional job on the lines and she has been
year ago, she has quickly developed into the reliable and effective approached to work on supplementary programs. She is a trainer
member all centres dream of having on their team. She is always for the Caller Reassurance Program and she helps our support for
signing herself up for the less popular shifts, making sure there are the Professional Association of Internes and Residents of Ontario.
no gaps in the service provided to our callers. On top of all this Dana generates financial support through her
Mathura has a good understanding of our goals and how the friends and family. She is an invaluable member of our team.
Centre strives to help others. She uses her own unique style of