You spend time with people, hear their stories, miss them when they’re gone.
Mel LeBlanc knows all about that.
For 11 years, he has volunteered at Veterans Place, the long-term care facility at the Yarmouth Regional Hospital.
He’s seen a lot of people come and go.
Some he gets to know better than others. There was Johnny, for instance. LeBlanc played cards regularly with him for four years. Then suddenly, Johnny died. It took LeBlanc a while to get over that one.
He says they’re all special, these veterans.
He has a connection.
LeBlanc’s own father was a veteran. A prisoner of war.
He likes hearing the stories of the veterans he meets.
Listens as they talk about those long-ago days. Stories of adventure, battles, friendships made.
That is, if they want to share them.
Most of the veterans there now don’t play cards. But many of them like bowling. There’s a lane set up in the Veteran’s Place activity room. They curl there too.
LeBlanc volunteers every weekday. If he’s there early enough, helps with breakfast, later with lunch. Sometimes the residents go for an outing. Visit friends at another long-term care facility. He lends a hand with that too.
LeBlanc started volunteering at Veterans Place in early 2008. He had retired the year before and was looking for something to do.
Used to spend 40 hours a week there at first.
Then came the cancer in 2011.
The treatments took him away Veterans Place for eight weeks or so.
Once that was over, he returned.
Over the years the hours added up.
Figures he’s clocked about 17,000 volunteer hours so far.
Enjoys helping people and getting to know the folks who live here.
Says it’s been time well spent.
“You feel good when you go home at night.”