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What I love about volunteering at L’Arche, by Michelle Lorimer

By Michelle Lorimer — I first came to volunteer at the Club in the fall of 2014. My introduction to L’Arche Daybreak was, like many of yours perhaps, through a book — through several books by Henri Nouwen actually. In those books I had read about a community called Daybreak and about the people in it. It all seemed larger than life and I was in awe at the blessedness being described.

I hadn’t made the connection that Daybreak was not so much larger than life at all — it was in fact the same community that kept a quiet steady pace, right across the road from where I lived, among the ever-growing development of buildings on Yonge Street in Richmond Hill.

So when a friend who was already a volunteer at Daybreak introduced me to Toni Urbanski and Toni suggested I bring my guitar and help with music at the Club, I said, “OK.”

I don’t remember much about that first warm fall day at the Club, except for feeling strangely disoriented and warmly welcomed – by a group of strangers, who were, in part, aware, present, curious, gentle, shy, careful, honest and accepting. This group of core members and Day Program attendees were to eventually become singing buddies and over the many months and years that we’d go on to sing on Tuesdays at the Club, we developed a repertoire of songs to sing together.

What I love about my time volunteering and interacting with my fellow music-makers at the Club is the laughter and silliness and enjoyment of each other that we experience – when we make it through every verse of The Cat Came Back at Helen’s request, or when we cheer after one of Luigi’s piano solos in Folsom Prison Blues; when we appreciate the gentle beauty of Kim singing Edelweiss; when “Jukebox” John Bloss interjects to request yet another song on his “favorites” playlist; and when Ellen finally comes in we conclude by singing Jane, before John yells out “lunch time!”

What I love about my time volunteering with this group of people is what they have taught me without trying to teach me anything: lessons about learning how to respect and be attentive to others; lessons about the connection between music and memory…and joy; lessons about the great value of doing simple things together, things that have no productivity in and of themselves but things that enrich our lives by bringing joy and helping us feel “together.” And finally, through their presence and gracious acceptance of me among them — lessons about the value of every life and the love and delight of God for each of His children.


Daybreak’s Volunteer Co-ordinator Anne Todd is always looking for new volunteers. She can be reached at (905) 884-3454, ext. 231 or by email at [email protected].