Dorothy Parnell could be just relaxing and enjoying her golden years, but instead she has been volunteering much of her time for the community she loves at IOOF Seniors Homes.
A resident of the IOOF and a longtime volunteer, Parnell currently manages the Last Minute Store, which is located in the front lobby of Heritage Place on Brooks Street in Barrie.
“When I first moved to Heritage Place, I was asked to be treasurer of the residents' association, which was a big job. I agreed and later I was asked to help at the store, and I have been doing it ever since,” Parnell tells BarrieToday.
Parnell took on the role when it was becoming difficult for the woman who ran the store to keep up with the demands. Parnell quickly realized that she was doing something that the people around her needed the most.
“We have several folks who seem to order all of their groceries from the store," she says.
It's a great system, Parnell adds, because it allows for seniors to remain independent and be able to pick up their groceries on their own.
“Most customers no longer drive, so getting to a conventional grocery store can be difficult,” she says.
Parnell’s responsibilities include organizing food orders, pick-ups, cash transactions, merchandise, and, of course, running the place.
Parnell describes the experience as always being fun.
“Over the years, we have served many residents who have a hard time making it to the store on their own. I can't name specifics, but it's never a full moment when you have that many seniors in one place," she says.
Parnell says the relationship she has built with the staff and community through the little shop has ultimately helped her adjust to life at the IOOF facility.
“Leaving your own home can be difficult, but the community here makes the transition much easier," she says.
Parnell has always been heavily involved in volunteering since her early 20s. She names the Meals on Wheels program in Quebec, where she volunteered for over 20 years.
“This is a project that I worked on since its creation, when they were first recruiting volunteers," she says with pride.
In Quebec, Meals on Wheels is a completely volunteer-run program, which includes volunteer drivers, cooks, delivery staff, dietitians, and schedulers.
“I volunteered by doing all of the scheduling as well as some driving and delivery for the organization," she says.
Despite periodically going through hard times, Parnell says volunteering is simply what she does.
“Volunteering is not only about helping others, but about how it makes you feel within yourself," she says.
As times passes, Parnell continues to feel gratified by her volunteer work.
“Giving back to the communities that I've lived in has not only touched the lives of others, but has benefited my own personal well-being. It is what has kept me going all of these years," she says.
The Last Minute Store has also been crucial during the pandemic and winter months. The money raised from the shop supports the Resident Housing Association.
Parnell is originally from Quebec, where she worked as a full-time and substitute elementary school teacher. She moved to Innisfil's Sandycove Acres in 2003, before coming to the IOOF in 2014.