Volunteering in a Pandemic: Lewis and Michael’s Stories

It goes without saying that there have been a lot of changes to our lives over the past year. Words like “unprecedented” and “new normal” have become staples in our collective vocabulary. But amidst all this uncertainty, at least two things have remained unchanged: the growing number of women and children who find themselves trapped in abusive households, and the astounding compassion and generosity of the volunteers who help us get them out.

Michael Gimzinski and Lewis McIver are two such volunteers who have stepped up to the plate and decided that a global pandemic wasn’t going to stop them from serving their community.

Both Michael and Lewis are Lead Movers for the Greater Toronto chapter of Shelter Movers. Lewis, who has recently completed his 20th move, wanted to use his time in a way that makes an actionable, positive difference in people’s lives — so he reached out to Shelter Movers and has been doing just that ever since. As for Michael, who has been on 25 moves so far, helping people toward a brighter future exemplifies what it means for him to be a leader in his community.

“It has been rewarding to see the difference [that] lending a helping hand makes in someone’s life amongst the stresses that are going on with us as a society through these pivotal times.”

As Lead Movers, Michael and Lewis are responsible for making sure that every move goes off without a hitch. As Michael puts it, “the health and safety of our clients and volunteers is first and foremost” and so Shelter Movers has implemented safety measures like PPE, hand sanitizer, social distancing, and additional screening tests for all of our moves.“It’s nice to know we can be there when we are needed despite everything that is going on in the world,” Lewis writes.

For all of our volunteers, each and every move is memorable in one way or another. Lewis recounts a move where a broken service elevator meant that the move team had to manually move a large couch up the stairs — a challenge that they were able to overcome together with hard work and determination. Michael remembers a particular client who, upon settling into her new home, opened her new balcony overlooking the lake and with wide open arms said, “I am free now”.

“Being able to help our clients, with what is oftentimes one of the biggest moments in their lives, is a truly beautiful experience that I am thankful and honoured to be a part of. The service that we are able to provide to our clients can make a huge difference in someone’s life.”

Volunteering in one of the hardest-hit regions in Canada is not without its challenges, but both Michael and Lewis agree that it has been a positive and rewarding experience. Michael says that he has grown as an individual since joining Shelter Movers and committing to this cause. Lewis, too, says that he has gained perspective and experiences that he has been able to integrate into his personal and professional life. Through volunteering, we often find that by helping others, we can also help ourselves.

Our need for volunteers has never been greater than it is now. We’re always on the lookout for more Movers and Drivers, like Lewis and Michael, but we have openings in other departments as well! If you’re looking for a way to give back, get in touch with us through our volunteer page and help put an end to family violence in Canada.

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