Long-time Baycrest volunteer and retired teacher receives Ontario Senior Achievement Award
October 30, 2014
Toronto, ON – Evelyn Burns-Weinrib didn’t let forced retirement from teaching at age 65 stop her from contributing to her community. She decided to begin a new chapter in her life: volunteering.
Her passion for helping others, and generous commitment of time and philanthropy, was honored today with a prestigious Ontario Senior Achievement Award from the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, the Hon. Elizabeth Dowdeswell. The award recognizes Ontarians who have made an outstanding contribution to their community after age 65.
“Evelyn is a treasure for Baycrest and the Province of Ontario. This exceptional award is well-deserved recognition for her many years of giving back to her community and also a testament to the vital importance of volunteerism in our society,” said Dr. William Reichman, president and CEO of Baycrest Health Sciences.
Evelyn grew up in a home where community service and care for others was part of her upbringing. As a child she would visit her maternal grandmother who had two “pushkas” (charity boxes) on her counter – one for Israel and one for the Toronto Jewish Old Folks Home (today’s Baycrest). Her grandmother was a member of the Board of Officers and Directors of the 1954 Home. Evelyn has continued her grandmother’s devotion to helping others and supporting Baycrest. She has logged more than 33,000 volunteer hours over the past 13 years at the sprawling healthcare campus on Bathurst St. – and shows no signs of slowing down.
“I have had the opportunity to help seniors like myself, who in the later years of life face ongoing losses – loss of loved ones, friends, jobs, physical mobility and health,” said Evelyn, who keeps a busy schedule at age 81. “I hope to inspire other seniors to appreciate life and find ways to fill their later years with hope and contentment as I have.”
Evelyn can be found volunteering at the café as cashier, facilitating a discussion group for long-term care residents, and assisting at the weekly Sabbath program. She lectures on seniors and depression to healthcare interns and visiting medical students from China, and talks to clients in the hospital’s Day Treatment unit on “Living the Good Life”. She spends three afternoons a week on the Palliative Care unit, and volunteers in the Resident and Wellness Library. Evelyn also knits and crochets items for patients who are facing cancer at Princess Margaret Hospital and Baycrest Hospital. Her beloved and popular dog “Angel” volunteered with her at Baycrest for 10 years.
“I want every to wake up in the morning, looking forward to the day ahead with purpose in life and optimism – which I have found through volunteering.”
“It has been a wonderful life experience for me to work with such an effective and engaging volunteer,” said Syrelle Bernstein, director of Volunteer Services at Baycrest. “Evelyn teaches me something every time we meet and chat. Just like the way she continues to touch the lives of the clients and staff with whom she engages, I feel so fortunate to have the opportunity to learn from her.”
Evelyn’s gift of time to help others is just one of the ways she gives back. She also provides generous philanthropic support – setting up a Baycrest endowment fund to honor her grandmother, sponsoring an Annual Recognition dinner for Baycrest volunteers, supporting renovations of the staff/volunteer fitness room, and sponsoring the annual Tribute to Baycrest Mentors.
Evelyn’s many years as a teacher continue to resonate in new ways. She completed a video for the Department of Education for healthcare workers who come into contact with long-term care residents who have behavioural challenges related to dementia, and another video about palliative care for students of The Michener Institute for Applied Health Sciences.
In recent years, Evelyn has spoken courageously and candidly to media and local community groups about her personal struggle with severe depression and an attempted suicide – advocating for more resources to help at-risk seniors get the help they need. A Baycrest research study that Evelyn sponsored led to the creation of a much-needed Mental Health Website for Seniors (www.baycrest.org/mentalhealth) under the direction of Baycrest’s chief of Psychiatry, Dr. Robert Madan (photo at left). Since its launch earlier this year, the website has had visitors from around the world.
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Baycrest Health Sciences