The centre of the Matthew’s House logo is a big, red heart. It tells us that this respite home for children with complex care needs is a place filled with love for children and families.
Michelle Kask has always loved working with children. Since 1996 she has worked as an Educational Assistant for the Abbotsford School District and has also volunteered in the past for the Crisis Line, helping people of all ages living with challenges.
When she and her husband started their family, she took a break from volunteering to concentrate on raising their children. But as they have grown and become more independent, Michelle found herself missing the feeling she got when she volunteered. She decided to reach out to Matthew’s House.
“I started by helping at community events where we raised awareness and funds for the building of Matthew’s House,” she says. “When it opened (in 2013), I started volunteering there.”
Volunteers make an enormous difference to the staff and families at Matthew’s House. Participating at a Matthew’s House booth at events in the community helps to raise awareness about how Matthew’s House serves families and how people in the community can support it financially.
Laura Ullock serves as the resource development assistant for Matthew’s House, helping to raise the funds that support it. It costs nearly a million dollars annually to keep Matthew’s House operating, the majority of which comes from generous donors and fundraising events. She says volunteers are invaluable.
“It really does take the support of the whole community to put on events and to help create awareness about Matthew’s House,” she says, adding that volunteers like Michelle make a huge difference. “Michelle has been amazing to work with because she gets her whole family involved. They bring such positive energy to every event they attend.”
Wendy Toohey, who is the manager at Matthew’s House, says volunteers like Michelle who come to the home, support her staff by being another set of helping hands.
“When Michelle volunteers here, she does so in various ways. At Matthew’s House, we have a 1:1 ratio of staff to child but there are some tasks that require a 2:1 ratio – like when we transfer a child in and out of a wheelchair or into the bath,” Wendy explains. “A volunteer like Michelle is helpful in that she can interact with other children, when staff have to double up. It’s also helpful to have a volunteer on hand when staff have to get documentation and other chores done.”
When she’s at Matthew’s House, Michelle spends her time interacting with children, reading, playing games or just visiting. Her goal is to support the staff and to help make each child’s time at Matthew’s House a happy time.
“It’s a good feeling in my heart knowing that when I leave my shift I have made not only the children there happy but have also helped the staff in any way I can,” she says.