VOLUNTEERING – Melinda (Lindy) Newman – OOE Resident Receives Prestigious June Callwood Award for Outstanding Service to May Court Hospice

Lori Gandy

When Melinda (Lindy) Newman learned this past March that she was to be inducted into the June Callwood Circle of Outstanding Volunteers, she says she was “absolutely shocked.” She had no idea that she had even been nominated. That reaction speaks volumes about why the long-serving volunteer was unanimously selected for this distinction by the staff, fellow volunteers, and the Volunteer Council at Hospice Care Ottawa’s May Court site.

She did not seek nor expect this recognition; according to colleagues at the May Court Hospice; this is very much Lindy’s way, and one of the many reasons why she deserves this award.

In nominating Newman, colleagues at the Hospice described her as “quiet and unassuming, working behind the scenes, going about her business in a humble way” to get things done and to comfort and care for others. It is this quiet compassion and genuine desire to help others without fanfare that inspired her colleagues to nominate her, and to see her recognized formally for her dedication, excellence, and professionalism.

Melinda Newman

Melinda Newman

The June Callwood Award, named in honour of the late June Callwood, a long-time advocate of hospice care, recognizes and honours outstanding hospice volunteers throughout Ontario. The award was established in 1994 by the Hospice Association of Ontario, which joined in 2011 with the Ontario Palliative Care Association to form Hospice Palliative Care Ontario.

Newman came to hospice care through personal experience. Her father received palliative care in Halifax in the early 1990s when he had cancer. She remembers how important that care was, allowing her family to continue to be a family and to be by his side supporting him through his final journey. Back home in Ottawa, when she learned that a hospice was to open in the neighbourhood, she knew that was where she wanted to spend her volunteer time, to help families and their loved ones move through their final days in peace, dignity and compassion.

For the past 20 years, Newman has volunteered three times a week at the May Court Hospice, one of three sites operated by Hospice Care Ottawa, a community-based charitable organization that offers palliative and end-of-life programs and services at no charge to people living in Ottawa. All services are offered in a setting that reflects as closely as possible a comfortable home environment to clients and their families. With the COVID-19 situation, the residence remains open but none of the community programs are currently running at the three sites.

In addition to performing volunteer administrative tasks – keeping the Hospice organized, updating residents’ records, and sending out bereavement cards – Newman is also a regular volunteer in the residence, always reliable, compassionate, and ready to support families, clients, and staff.

She is a Registered Nurse (retired) and was able to step in as coordinator for the Day Hospice and Home Support programs from 2000 to 2002 when one of the nurses took a sabbatical. Many of the volunteers have also benefited from Newman’s giving nature through her mentorship when they came on board.

“I have been inspired by the courage, strength and grace of residents and their families. It has been a privilege to do a small part within an amazing team of dedicated caregivers. I receive more than I give,” she says of her important work at the Hospice.

When asked about how the organization has evolved over 20 years, Newman had this to say: “The organization, although much larger than 20 years ago, has not changed. Its mandate is to do what we are able to do to support individuals and their families at a very vulnerable time of their lives in a warm, caring, and welcoming environment.” Today, the Hospice offers Community Hospice Care programs such as in-home visits and day hospice, Residence Hospice Care, Bereavement Care and Caregiver Support.

Her family members are enormously proud of her for her volunteer work, and for the recognition, she received through this award. With the COVID-19 situation, Newman was unable to attend an award presentation event in Toronto. So, her family decided to organize a surprise “awards ceremony” for her. “My family is my life,” she says. “I love them dearly. I was so touched!!”

Newman is a volunteer in the truest sense of the word – giving freely of herself without any expectation of reward. As she says without hesitation: “I do the work that I do since I see it as an honour and a gift to volunteer. I do not expect anything, as the Hospice is a place I feel that I am meant to be.”

As her colleagues expressed so aptly in their nomination, “She gets along with everyone. With her kind heart, work ethic and continued dedication to Hospice, she is truly one of a kind. Lindy is a superstar.”

Hospice Care Ottawa is always looking for volunteers to carry out various tasks. If you would like to volunteer, please visit their web site to apply or email the volunteer services team at volunteer.services@hospicecareottawa.ca. More information about Hospice Care Ottawa, including information on donations, can be found on their website at https://www.hospicecareottawa.ca

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