At a time when it was difficult to give back to the community in the typical ways, Maggie Harbert took hold of new opportunities to help others through difficult points of the pandemic.
This past year, Maggie stepped up her volunteer leadership commitment by becoming the Arnprior Regional Health (ARH) Auxiliary President, and the Volunteer Lead of the Arnprior COVID-19 Vaccine Clinics. The 2022 Greater Arnprior Chamber of Commerce Business Achievement Awards formally recognized Maggie’s contributions by honouring her with a Volunteer of the Year Award.
Maggie recalled: “It was a total surprise to hear the news of this award because I didn’t even give my contributions a second thought. I am just one volunteer out of more than 100 who helped at the vaccine clinics through all kinds of weather and conditions.”
In 2012, Maggie and her husband were empty nesters with the kids away at university, so they decided to downsize and relocate from Kanata to Arnprior. Growing up in Pembroke, Maggie felt a bit like it was a return home to the Valley.
“Shortly after that move about nine years ago, my dad died and in the last year of his life, he was in and out of the hospital non-stop and lived in long-term care. I remember watching how much care was involved and how volunteers at the different organizations took care of his non-medical needs. I knew when I eventually retired, I wanted to do something that was totally unrelated to my work life and supported that care.”
While Maggie was still working as a technician at Bell in Arnprior, she joined the ARH Auxiliary and began doing the water rotation every Tuesday – filling and delivering water to patients. After she retired in 2016, she shifted into a bigger commitment volunteering at the Hospital Gift Shop and soon after she was asked to sit on the Auxiliary Executive as Secretary.
Maggie shared: “I was blown away by the magnitude of the Auxiliary’s involvement— the number of volunteer hours and the money that was generated for ARH. I walked out of that first Executive Meeting and thought: ‘oh I have found where I want to be and what I want to do.’”
New role as President
In June 2021, Maggie became President of the Auxiliary after first joining the organization in 2014.
“It has been so rewarding,” shared Maggie. “I have such respect for anybody who volunteers because they don’t have to and they’re not looking for anything. It’s a unique group of people and I’m so proud to represent all the Auxiliary volunteers.”
In Maggie’s first year as President, the Auxiliary had to navigate the ups and downs of COVID-19 restrictions and its impact on volunteering.
“When our members could help, they did. For volunteers who couldn’t help in person at the Grove or Hospital, they found other ways to make a difference.”
Despite the inevitable challenges, The Auxiliary’s Opportunity Shop managed to stay open and met their pledge commitment of $120,000 to support the Grove plus an additional $40,000 to support the Hospital.
“I’m really proud of the fact that we kept the wheels on the bus throughout this past year.”
When Maggie reflects on the proudest moment from her first year as President, it was the opportunity to celebrate and recognize the ARH Auxiliary’s financial support for the new Grove Nursing Home at the grand opening event.
“To be able to represent the Auxiliary while promoting our substantial contributions in front of our MPP, Cabinet Ministers and Hospital Leaders, that is a moment I will never forget. Whenever I get the chance, I love to remind people that our contributions are all from volunteer efforts.”
COVID-19 vaccine clinic role
Leading up to the launch of the Community COVID-19 Vaccine Clinics in Arnprior, the ARH Auxiliary was approached to see if they could help support the operations. Numerous members were ready to help volunteering at the clinics over the course of many months.
“Because of COVID-19 everything was shutdown, and we were sitting at home wanting to help but we couldn’t help,” reflected Maggie. “We were a natural group to reach out to.”
Maggie was one of the Auxiliary members who was keen to volunteer and was part of the first clinic. When an email went out with change ideas for the second clinic, Maggie provided some feedback on how to ensure it was a smooth experience for community members.
“That was it – after that email, I was asked to be the Volunteer Lead. I like to plan, and I like things to be organized and to run well. I approached every clinic with the thought: “If I was walking or driving through this clinic, is it going to work and will I be happy with the experience.”
The volunteer impact on local health care
At the heart of all of Maggie’s volunteer contributions is her belief in the importance of quality local health care and the power of volunteerism to enhance the health and well-being of the community.
“We’re so fortunate to have the Grove and a community hospital that serves so many of our needs so why not do something that is going to help. It’s a win-win. And you feel good doing it.”