Meet Linda. Linda Cruz is a Carleton grad (BA/85) and current staff member who has been working in Conference Services for the past five years.
During this difficult period of social distancing, it’s easy to withdraw into ourselves; many of us may let our regular routines and activities fall by the wayside while we focus on merely getting by.
Linda is a people-person—an altruist. For many years, she has been an active volunteer in her community. Most notably, she has worked with the Distress Centre of Ottawa and Region for ten years, answering calls as a volunteer as well as serving as a Leader for the past seven years. As a Leader, she is responsible for completing two 24-hour shifts per month to support volunteers in the call centre.
Instead of taking some time away from her volunteer activities during the current global health crisis, she has doubled-down to help out as much as possible.
“I’m taking this time away from the office to focus on my volunteer efforts with the Distress Centre,” says Linda. “This is a difficult situation we are in. Some people are really struggling and need support. Ottawa Public Health and many media organizations have been encouraging people to reach out to the Distress Centre if they are having a hard time.
“Because of the sensitive and sometimes high-stakes nature of the calls received, becoming a Distress Centre volunteer requires 60 hours of training. There’s simply no time to train new volunteers during the current crisis, so it’s up to the existing crew to take shifts and answer the phones. I felt I had a responsibility to step up.
“I really appreciate the flexibility I have with Carleton and my department right now. It can be difficult to take shifts while working full-time in an office environment, but my more flexible work-from-home schedule makes it easier to fit in Distress Centre phone shifts.”
Talk about making the most out of a difficult situation.
In addition to her Distress Centre work, she answered a call on social media from the Ottawa Food Bank looking for emergency hamper packing volunteers. Having volunteered with the Food Bank in the past—working on their farm and helping with food sorting—and recognizing the substantial need for this type of service right now, she was eager to get involved.
“In a single day, 37 of us were able to pack 2,000 hampers,” Linda shares. “It felt good to know that we were taking some pressure off of the Food Bank staff—who have been working incredibly hard—and helping to feed 2,000 families.”
When asked about the risk associated with in-person volunteering, Linda was candid. “It was always on my mind that I was taking a risk—but it’s a necessary risk to help people in need. I was very careful about washing my hands, not touching my face and keeping a safe distance from other people. Both the Food Bank and Distress Centre were good about keeping hand sanitizer and soap stocked and posting reminders about what constitutes safe behaviour.”
Linda’s motivation for taking on these extra responsibilities was simple: mental health. She says: “Keeping busy and helping people is my way of maintaining good mental health. And it helps me support the mental health of others, too.
“At the Distress Centre, I answer calls from people who may be having a mental health crisis or who just need to vent; people are anxious, scared, stressed about their job security and unemployment. It’s been an amazing opportunity to listen, talk through these issues and support people in our community while also helping to share important COVID-19 information.”
Her best advice to callers? “I tell people to try to establish and maintain a routine as much as possible. Eat healthy, get enough sleep, fit in some exercise and be kind to yourself.”
Access the Distress Centre here. Access or support the Ottawa Food Bank here.
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