When volunteers are finally back at the David Busby Centre, Rina Krans will be where she needs to be.
Krans answered the centre's call for volunteers years ago and now, as pandemic restrictions ease, she’s raring to get back to doing what she loves: helping people.
For more than 20 years, the Busby Centre and the Barrie Out of the Cold program have helped thousands of the less fortunate, thanks to volunteers like Krans.
“If you see someone in need, you help them,” she tells BarrieToday. “You don’t turn your head away. It’s important to recognize that people have a right to live, have a right to be and have dignity.”
During the winter months between November and May, the centre runs central intake for all emergency shelter referrals as well as an on-site emergency group lodging program that was formerly known as Barrie Out of the Cold.
Krans was the co-ordinator at St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church for the program and was face-to-face with the homeless, talking to them and listening, while stretched out on the same floor mats they were.
“I’ve done the overnight thing. I’ve slept with our fellas with Out of the Cold,” she says. “You meet with the fellas. I could tell you stories about how they lost their temper or whatever. But there are also the beautiful stories about how we help them.”
Spreading the love also means filling tummies and Krans has been doing some of that too, lending a hand at Breakfast-to-Go four days a week at Collier Street United Church in conjunction with Ryan’s Hope.
“I started making my oatmeal again and they call it Rina’s Oatmeal,” she says. “I make it at home and I bring it with me. So it’s really fresh.”
Krans says it was “impossible” to volunteer at her beloved Busby during COVID.
“I was lost. A big part of my life is here and then all of a sudden I couldn’t be here,” she says. “It feels good to be back.”
Sara Peddle, executive director of the David Busby Centre, says volunteers are gradually being introduced back into the centre’s services post pandemic.
“We had to put our volunteer program on hiatus for safety reasons,” she tells BarrieToday. “Now we are slowly introducing roles such as emergency shelter support which will help with monitoring our spaces to ensure safety and support for everyone accessing services.
“Volunteers will work in tandem with staff to support in basic-needs assistance and social support.”
Other volunteer opportunities include on-site meal preparation and donation organizing.
“We always have volunteer positions for our fundraising and events committee and we are currently seeking board members,” Peddle says. “We will slowly be introducing more roles as we settle back into post pandemic response.”
David Busby Centre volunteers hail from a variety of backgrounds, she adds, including business owners, stay-at-home parents, healthcare and emergency services workers, teachers/educators, factory workers, farmers, people with lived experience (someone who has utilized the centre’s services) and community partners.
Volunteers are a vital part of the Busby team, says Peddle.
“We have missed them dearly throughout the pandemic. Volunteers bring an indescribable energy to our services and we appreciate all of their amazing efforts,” says Peddle.
Krans says volunteering — and caring about people — will always remain close to her heart.