By Sonia Hazan

The Volunteer Management Council (VMC) is our voice at the Hope & Cope Board. Composed of volunteers representing a wide variety of areas within Hope & Cope, the Chair of the Board, the Executive Director and a few other staff, the Council provides leadership and decision-making on volunteer-related issues.

In September, Ida Teoli completed her two-year term as President, handing over the reins to Sylvie Grégoire. We spoke to them both for this issue of Volunteer Voices.

Ida Teoli has an MBA in Marketing and specialized in communications. She worked in different industries such as the airlines, banking and at BCE where she made her mark for 15 years.

In 2008, Cancer hit but did NOT win. What did win was Hope & Cope! After completing her treatments, Ida felt this strong pull to help others and offered her time and skills to Hope & Cope. Ida started at reception on the 7th Floor. Soon after, the Oncology Clinics and our Peer Mentoring program also benefited from Ida’s talents.

Fast forward to four years ago…the germ of an idea…. to replace the existing Administrative Committee with a new management structure enabling volunteers to suggest and help implement meaningful approaches, policies and guidelines around volunteer management and engagement. The Board was receptive to this idea.

“First, we wanted to get a handle on what the needs were, to identify and develop the areas of need and choose volunteers to fill those tasks. It was important to find out how the majority of the volunteers felt,” said Ida. An interim group, which later became known as the VMC, was formed and a survey sent out to all volunteers in 2017.

What stood out in our chat with Ida was her commitment to excellence and to guiding us in participatory decision-making. “I found great satisfaction in creating the Council, in working with dedicated people in a project-oriented world,” she said.

In our COVID reality, it has been a challenge for Hope & Cope and its volunteers to adjust and find our new place. Although our physical presence is not possible at the moment, we have the opportunity to try something else, to follow a new meaningful path. The VMC has worked hard to help ease this transition for volunteers.

Sylvie Grégoire, our new President, picked up the baton from Ida. In 2006, at the age of 38, Sylvie was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was treated at the JGH and unfortunately, 3 1/2yrs later, had a recurrence. A corporate lawyer by training, her skills were in demand, but she decided to try her hand at teaching law. She now divides her time between, among others, Université de Montréal, McGill University, and the Montreal Bar School.

In 2010, Sylvie became a Peer Mentor, where she put her heart and soul into this role. She also served on Hope & Cope’s Board for a few was and accomplished many other tasks. She has been a member of the VMC since the beginning and chaired the Training Committee, responsible for updating and streamlining our Volunteer Manual.

Sylvie is honored to assume the presidency of VMC. “This important body exists thanks to the generosity of people who give their time, their energy and their knowledge to our organization.”

Her goals show how she can take a difficult situation (COVID-19) and turn it into a positive one for Hope & Cope. “Since meetings in person are not possible, let’s do some backroom tasks. Let’s get a better grasp on who our volunteers are, let’s prepare full volunteer profiles and learn what and how they can contribute so that the organization can better utilize those skills.”

This is a win/win combination – volunteers who want to be more engaged can do so easily. And thanks to today’s technology, a new data base will make this information easily accessible!

Our new, work-in-progress website will integrate all these parts.

Sylvie noted that with winter coming up, there will be more restrictions to follow, but our “In Conversation” series will be fun, informative and will keep us connected.

When asked “Can you tell us something totally different about you?” Sylvie’s answer floored us! In 2018, she and her husband undertook the adventure of a lifetime: walking across France, from Boulogne-sur-Mer on the Channel to Montpellier near the Mediterranean Sea. NO CARS, NO BUSES, NO TRAINS, JUST…WALKING!

There is a book in the making about this amazing trip – a must-read for all!