These were the words out of Andre’s mouth after he and his Rotary Club of Etobicoke team volunteered at Furniture Bank.

Here’s what he had to say about their experience:

“Gillian and my knowledge in respect to Furniture Bank came about when we donated a light oak dining room suite two years ago.

Hands on Etobicoke was established to provide the Rotary members with a more direct approach in involving the club with the community and, as such, is always looking for helpful projects. Gillian, as co-Chair of the committee, contacted Furniture Bank with a view of volunteering with this community minded organization.

As a result, we met with Joe  Di Paolo, Volunteer Coordinator at Furniture Bank.  Joe greeted us warmly and immediately put us at ease and explained the mechanics of our volunteering activities.  His explanation was comprehensive and thorough with the main emphasis being the treatment of its clients with dignity and empathy. This theme was repeated and emphasized throughout the briefing and ensured that we were imbued with this motivation.

We were then accompanied by Joe to the warehouse where we exercised the mechanics of hosting and accompanying the clientele for their selection of goods and furniture. Again, Joe emphasized that the objective was not only to provide for the selections of the clients, but also, to respect their dignity and recognize that they are going  through a difficult period in their lives. We absorbed this lesson thoroughly as this reflected the philosophy of the Hands On Etobicoke team.

We were then paired with clients who came from various ethnic and cultural backgrounds. We were solicitous to their needs and attempted to assist them with their selections by recognizing their specific requirements and budgets. Patience was key in understanding their requirements and desires. Gillian and I, being from Diplomatic backgrounds and having served in countries in the Middle East, Asia and Africa, were able to understand their cultural imperatives and empathize with the financial and cultural challenged they were facing. We attempted to guide them in their selections when they were hesitant without imposing our personal views and opinions. We felt that they appreciated our participation and were able to walk away satisfied with their experience at Furniture Bank.

For Gillian and I it was an extremely positive experience and an opportunity to serve members of the community.  We could not have been happier with the support and guidance received from Joe and his co-workers, and for the opportunity to work with Furniture Bank. This organization fulfills a poignant need in the community.

It is estimated that over 100,000 people immigrate to Toronto yearly with many arriving with little or no financial support and little understanding of the difficulties in becoming established in  this great city. Furniture Bank provides these people with the basic needs and wherewithal to establish themselves and help them to become productive citizens. If Furniture Bank did not exist, we would have to invent such an organization!