Written by Jesse Schultz.
I don’t know who was more surprised, Frank or Chris, the DSP who was with him when he found out that he had been volunteering for 20 years at the Kitchener Waterloo Humane Society. The pair happened to casually ask while Frank was visiting early in January this year. The Humane Society staff looked it up on the computer and astonishingly remarked “20 years, almost to the day!”
Frank was quick to ask about celebrating at his favourite restaurant Moose Winooski’s and when he returned home that day he made sure everyone knew about it. The next day his response had changed to a bashful smile and a shrug when it was brought up but he was certain about getting out to Moose Winooski’s. After some planning and making a few calls we were able to gather some friends and celebrate Frank’s accomplishment with meat loaf, chicken wings, sweet potato fries and burgers!
One of the servers asked what we were celebrating, and when she heard we were celebrating Frank’s volunteer service with the Humane Society she almost teared up. She then spoke directly to Frank and let him know that she got her cat from the Humane Society. Frank’s favourite animals there are the cats, he says the dogs are too stinky! The server and Frank tried to figure out if they knew the same cat but she had given it a new name so they couldn’t pin it down. She thanked Frank in the end and it was obvious that she was moved by his involvement there.
When asked about what comes next, Frank said that he wanted to keep going to the Humane Society. So, with that in mind we may be headed to Moose Winooski’s again in 5 years to celebrate the gifts that Frank is contributing to his community through serving and volunteering. As we found out with the server, you never know who your efforts will impact.
I think for most of us on the team, the longevity of his involvement with the Humane Society was unfortunately in the background, happening quietly and consistently without much fanfare. We were all pretty shocked at the announcement when he returned home that day. We often strive to demonstrate “belonging to communities in which their God-given gifts are valued and respected” but I think we missed seeing this 20 year commitment as something outstanding as it happened routinely, most of us just continuing what we were instructed to do when we started supporting Frank. I asked him about how he got started volunteering and he said his high school teacher and friend Linda got him connected there after high school. Frank’s staff team over the years likely didn’t realize they would be part of a 20 year legacy of serving his community. The nature of receiving direct support can be quite transient for a lot of people we support. Often the case is that so many people will pass through the lives and homes of the people we support. We may not always see the long story developing but we can jump in and commit to the journey each person is on at present just like with Frank and the Humane Society.
What opportunities, support strategies and activities are currently part of someone’s life that you can fully commit to even if you can’t see the full story?
What is something worth celebrating that you may have missed because it has become routine or common?