You might see Jordan Downing offering you food samples at Costco on the weekends. Or, you might see him wheeling down Grove St on his way home when he was a student at Eastview Secondary School. You might have met him while he was working at the Y’s evening day care centre.These days he’s using his upper body strength to set up chairs and tables for an auditorium event at Grove Park Home…and he’s waiting for the end of summer to start Georgian College classes in office administration. He has a seat waiting for him there.
Brandon Johnston? Well, you would have found Brandon most enthusiastic as a North Collegiate student when he was in auto mechanics or auto shop classes. These days you’ll find Brandon at the handles end of a wheelchair as he escorts seniors to various events in their long term care facility.
In many ways, Jordan and Brandon are connected. The most obvious is they are both enthusiastic, committed, caring volunteers at Grove Park Home. They’re also young–20 and 22 respectivel–and they’ve both been mainstays in daily life at Grove Park Home for over three years.
These young men, both having met challenge in their own lives, take remarkable attitudes in to seniors living in different sections of Grove Park Home.
Jordan arrived at Grove Park through his caseworker at Simcoe Community Living. She suggested he might be excellent at meeting people one on one, making a difference in their lives by just visiting with them. Jordan remembers well his first friendly one-on-one visit… with resident Ruby Drake. “I just sat and talked with her. We talked about the past and I found out what she was interested in,” he says. While Jordan still visits with Ruby, his volunteer role at Grove Park has expanded as he now visits with many residents. He loves those on Pine Residence, those challenged with Alzheimers Disease.
“Now I help out with activities. I help people with their meals. I help with birthday parties, with music and singsongs, with barbecues and I still visit people,” he says. He helps with exercise class and with paperwork. He plays Euchre with Harold Bolton, of Grove Park’s Maple Wing, the independent living section of this wonderful home. Brandon, Jordan and Harold go bowling twice a week and you’d be hard pressed to find out which is the better bowler.
Jordan’s focus with his gift of 25 hours a week to Grove Park contributes much to the home. Jordan says it’s giving just as much to him. “I have more self respect and more respect for seniors as well because of coming here,” he says. “I’d say with every day I’m here, it continues to grow.” Growing up with spina bifida, Jordan says school taught him lessons but not friendships and his time at Grove Park has given him friendships. “My whole life people have helped me,” he says, “and now I’m able to give back.”
As he heads off to college in the fall, he expects to still be involved with Grove Park Home, but it’ll be on the weekends for sure.
For Brandon Johnston, his smile, and his willing hands make him an important part of Grove Park’s daily routines. He transports people everywhere, sits with them at concerts and events, makes sure they’re where they’re supposed to be. He helps the janitor move furniture and set up equipment. While Brandon says he feels most comfortable on Maple Wing, he’s a busy guy in every section of Grove Park–Pine, Willow, Aspen, Spruce.
Brandon’s cheerful face is at Grove Park at least 16 hours a week, every week day, and he relies on his parents for transportation to and from his north end home.
Both young men express real excitement over the time they spend with Harold Bolton. Bowling, playing card games, watching sports (particularly the Stanley Cup playoffs!) is all part of their week at Grove Park. And Harold Bolton can’t say enough about what these two give to residents at this east end facility.
“These are great guys,” he says. Barb Caicco, Grove Park’s manager of programs and volunteers, is generous with her praise. “Their caseworkers introduced them to Grove Park but their commitment is totally theirs,” she says. “They have amazing commitment to their volunteer jobs and what they do really matters to the residents.
“They bring friendship. They bring smiles. They’re totally authentic, they’re real with people. They help us in all areas of the home. Without them, it would be difficult to have as many residents involved in activities as we do.”
This is sure one of those just-plain-happy stories, two young men who have found joy in giving and whose giving causes joy to their recipients. And, that’s a great circle to be part of.
Thanks, Brandon. Thanks Jordan.