For Stacey Daoust, helping people in her hometown isn’t a job, it’s a passion.
The colder weather tends to make most of us want to go home and curl up in a blanket with a warm cup of hot chocolate; but Daoust knows that some in Barrie are a lot less fortunate and don’t have that option. As program coordinator for Barrie Out Of The Cold, Daoust is busy year round but particularly in the winter months with having to support the coordinating and board volunteers. With the annual Socktober drive to recruit help for the upcoming season having passed, the push is still on and help is direly needed.
“Everyone may think that when we have our Socktober recruitment nights at City Hall that we are done, but that is definitely not the case,” said Daoust. “We are very much in need of volunteers and donations from the community and any little bit helps.”
The BOTC organization is entering its 20th season and the numbers have grown exponentially since the first day. Where 20 years ago the group was helping one or two people on designated nights, they are now looking at 40 guests per host facility a night and need 1,000 volunteers over the course of the season to make it all work.
“It is for sure a monumental task and this year for some reason our volunteer numbers are down from years gone by,” said Daoust. “We are working hard to get some extra bodies for our over-night positions and are also in need of folks just because sometimes we may have someone sick and in need of a night off; it’s good to be able to call in someone to help out for a few hours while others take care of themselves too.”
The 30-year-old got involved with the program six years ago after having seen an ad and felt like it would be a good place to help out with. Heading back to school didn’t deter her from wanting to go back and she only took that time off to prepare herself to help in a greater capacity.
“I had some spare time back in school during my under-grad that I didn’t know how to fill that and saw this ad for a need for volunteers so I signed up,” said Daoust. “I did that for two years then went back to school and ended up researching more on what I had been doing so when I came back to the program I applied for this current position and it just kind went from there.”
Daoust is also involved with the David Busby Centre as a volunteer and is there often as BOTC uses the space for their offices as well; the partnership between the two groups seemed convenient when it started but is now viewed as vital and an important part of the system.
“Because with Out Of The Cold we have different host locations each night and not a set spot, we have our office here at Busby,” said Daoust. “We are partner organizations and work very closely together which really streamlines everything; if we at Out Of The Cold see a guest that may not be connecting to services during the day, we can direct them to Busby and vice-versa.”
Daoust grew up just outside of Barrie but attended Eastview Secondary School and loves her home city and all that it does for special programs for those in need of assistance. Daoust admits that she herself did not have an all too troubling childhood nor has she experienced homelessness personally, but the cause just seemed to call her, and she’s never looked back.
“I don’t know when it happened, this passion for this,” said Daoust, “It’s definitely something that you realize very quickly if it’s a field you want to pursue or not. It is very challenging work but is extremely rewarding as well and I just really love being with people and helping; I’ve always said too that if I was in that position I would hope there would be agencies and folks there to support me because it could happen to anybody at anytime.”
When she first started, Daoust admits that it is sometimes hard to leave the helping and caring at the door when you go home and the teams at the BOTC and the Busby Centre are very supportive ones. Self-care is a big issue for those who volunteer their time and is needed greatly when one is trying to help others.
“When I started volunteering, it was very shocking to me. I had grown up just outside of Barrie and not been exposed to these types of situations,” said Daoust. “I’m here a lot and there’s no real set time to start or leave and you get to realize there is no typical day, just the next day and we talk a lot here about self-care. You really have to learn to take care of yourself if you want to take care of others. It is sometimes hard not to bring what you see and feel home with you but it is so needed to be able to come in the next day with a smile on your face and the energy to take on the next tasks.”
To help with Barrie Out Of The Cold, check out the website for additional information.