Michelle’s grandmother, Cecile Allain, always had a strong presence in her life. Growing up, Michelle spent a lot of time baking with her mother and grandmother. Her grandmother’s house was always a comfort, and she was ever ready with kind words and loving hugs.
When she got older, Cecile moved to a retirement home that happened to be next door to Michelle. They remained close and Michelle would visit as often as she could. She started volunteering there during a difficult time in her life, and she realized that her visits were cheering up the residents as well as herself.
After her grandmother’s passing, Michelle still feels a connection to the retirement home and the seniors who live there. She continues to visit as often as she can to help bring a little joy into the seniors’ day by playing bingo with them and helping with different activities.
I help the seniors eat, play games, bake and a lot of times, I just listen. They have such interesting stories to tell, but not a lot of people to tell them to. Knowing that I can make someone’s day better is the best part of volunteering.
I began volunteering there in 2013 after I left my last job. It was a challenging time for me, and for at least three months, I was depressed and found it difficult to even leave my house. Then the events coordinator at my grandmother’s retirement home asked if I could help plan the Christmas events with her. I think she knew that I needed some help. Being with other people and having a reason to get out of the house really cheered me up. I was able to talk about my problems to these women who had a lifetime of experience. Just knowing that I had people to listen to me was enough.
I started going there daily to help and found myself feeling better in no time. By just being there—talking, listening, playing games and helping out—I really felt like I was getting back to my old self. These little old ladies saved my life, and I add a little joy to theirs. I formed special bonds with them.
I’ve lost several of my new friends since then, including my grandmother, but I learned important life lessons along the way. I will be forever grateful for that.