The history of volunteers at Montfort
The mission of the Association des bénévoles at Hôpital Montfort is to contribute to the well-being of patients, their family members and staff by offering physical, moral and psychological support services.
The Association was created in the spring of 1955. Ms. LeFort, wife of the hospital’s architect, founded the Women’s Auxiliary Committee of the Saint-Louis-Marie-de-Montfort Hospital. She served as its first president, followed by Mrs. Labrosse, Mrs. Côté, Mrs. Dubuc, Mrs. Marchand and Mrs. Liard.
Every year, the Women’s Auxiliary organised a tea party/picnic known as “the garden party.” The proceeds of these events were turned over to the hospital to buy toys for children, furniture and medical devices. The Women’s Auxiliary disbanded in the 1970s, marking the end of an era.
A few years later, in 1974, Françoise Sylvestre, a member of the hospital’s Board of Directors, managed to persuade the Board to create an auxiliary/volunteer group. She assigned responsibility for its organisation to Agathe Bélisle, Marguerite Pigeon, Cécile Roy and Cécile Laplante.
By 1975 they were ready to open the hospital’s first Boutique. Starting in 1978, and for many years thereafter, a strawberry and champagne social was held in June. It became the group’s primary fundraising activity. The Association operated the hospital’s first coffee shop, the Café Rapido, which later partly became a Tim Hortons, until 2019.
In 1990, the group decided to acknowledge the contributions not only of the auxiliaries, but also those of the hospital’s volunteers, and adopted a new name – Montfort Auxiliaries/Volunteers Association.
In 2013, it dropped the word Auxiliaries to reflect its withdrawal from organising fundraising campaigns. It now intends to turn its full attention to volunteering in order to improve the quality of life of patients and the people around them.
The number of volunteers active at Hôpital Montfort has climbed from 170 in 1974-1975 to over 325 since at least 2010. It is estimated that the volunteers give over 60,000 hours a year to the hospital, which amounts to quite a significant number of hours per volunteer.
Easily identifiable by their blue smocks, the volunteers make friendly visits, form part of the palliative care team, and ensure a comforting presence in the emergency room, at registration centres, and in the various clinics and waiting rooms. Some volunteers choose to help staff in administrative offices, while others donate their time to the Boutique, Nevada ticket sales or the reception desk at the main entrance. In everything that they do, the volunteers reflect the values of Hôpital Montfort: compassion, excellence, respect and commitment.
All of the volunteers who work at Hôpital Montfort and Montfort Long-Term Care Centre must register with Volunteer Services. To meet the hospital’s needs, this office is responsible for the management and training of volunteers to ensure that they are equipped to effectively perform their duties in support of staff members.
As recruitment needs are neverending, Volunteer Services has established a program designed to encourage young volunteers. Every summer since 2004, approximately fifty young people from 14 to 17 years of age have completed the 40 hours of volunteer activity required by the Ontario Ministry of Education to obtain an Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD) by working at Hôpital Montfort. It is a win-win situation for all concerned: patients as well as staff and the young people share an enriching experience that could have an impact on their career choices.
The following have successively administered the Volunteer Services: Jeannette Roy, s.c.o. (1983-1988), Marc P. Desjardins (1988-2002), Julie Gaudreault (2002-2004) and Marielle Beauchesne, manager since 2005.
Before the Montfort Hospital Foundation took over, funds raised by the Association were used to purchase equipment. For example, in 1981 the Association contributed $35,000 for a specialised radiology device; in 1984, $50,000 to purchase a Holter monitor (mobile echocardiograph machine); and in 1987, $32,000 for a urological ultrasound used in the operating room and urology department as an ultrasound device.
Since the 1990s, the Association has made donations to Hôpital Montfort to support special projects: close to $708,000 for the construction and furnishing of the Family Birthing Centre and approximately $500,000 to help pay for the construction costs of the south wing.
Between 2008 and 2013 the Association donated 1.2 million $ to furnish an operating room reserved for minimally invasive surgeries, including the associated equipment.
These funds were proceeds from various activities, primarily the Hospital Boutique, the nutritional services (retail), and Nevada tickets.
Nine women have chaired the Association’s Board of Directors: Agathe Bélisle (1974-1977, 1979-1981 and 1986-1989); Marguerite Pigeon (1977-1979); Fernande Dubeau (1981-1983); Valérie Lepage (1983-1986); Marie Carr (1989-1991); Andrée Marcoux (1991-1993); Lise Milotte (1993-2002); Denyse Brisson (2002-2011); Brigitte Legare (2011 to 2015) and Adèle Copti-Fahmy (2015 to the present). The contribution of three of these women deserves special mention:
- The Association took shape under the guidance of Agathe Bélisle. A fountain of energy and creativity, Ms. Bélisle coordinated the establishment of the Hospital Boutique and organised special events like "Christmas at Montfort" for employees and their children, as well as fundraising activities that included picnics in the hospital gardens and casino nights in the Bélisle Automobiles showroom. Through her efforts, the Association committed its support to the hospital expansion and development project launched in the 1980s. Ms. Bélisle co-chaired the "Cordialement vôtre – Sincerely Yours" fundraising campaign.
- Lise Milotte was the first woman to preside over the Association for several consecutive terms of office, thus providing the stability that it needed to thrive. A former employee of the hospital, Ms. Milotte encouraged volunteers to pay attention to the needs of staff members and complement their work. “Collaboration and mutual respect between auxiliaries/volunteers and employees is the key to our success and central to our ideal of ensuring the well-being of patients," she explained. Under her guidance, the Association launched the above-mentioned Family Birthing Centre project, consolidated its lucrative funding activities and finalised the last details of an exhaustive recruitment campaign, selected and trained new volunteers, and joined a provincial volunteer screening program to protect the safety of patients, visitors and employees of the hospital.
- A member of the Association’s Board of Directors since 2000, Denyse Brisson accepted the presidency in 2003 and remained until 2011. During her term in office, the Association adopted a professional tone: it developed a strategic plan, undertook an administrative review, took charge of all hospital nutrition services, and examined the issue of future resources by establishing the Young Volunteers Program.
“Simply being there to listen, because sometimes listening involves far more than words, [or] a simple act of kindness by a volunteer often goes a long way toward making the world a better place… every day we see these concrete acts of unity and solidarity that reflect the values of the volunteers, making all the difference, one smile, one hand or one word at a time.”
“The enthusiasm and dedication of our volunteers in serving others has never waned over the years. The Association remains a key player in the mission of Hôpital Montfort and volunteers remain undeterred in safeguarding this mission.”