Volunteer Profile: Jay Stewart
Interview by Charles Leibovitch
“Inspired by her grandmother and mother to volunteer and give back to the community.”
A few years ago, Jay saw an ad in The Courier inviting older adults to take a training course with Grace Hann at Jewish Seniors Alliance. Jay signed up and found Grace’s training to be exceptional. In addition, the rapport, camaraderie and sense of community that evolved both during the training and afterwards was the best Jay had ever experienced in her years as a volunteer. She was impressed with Grace’s continued support once she started seeing clients and attending the bimonthly volunteer meetings. Jay Stewart has been an active and devoted Senior Peer Counselor for Jewish Seniors Alliance Peer Support Services ever since.
Born in Charlottetown, P.E.I., Jay went to school there before beginning her journey west. She lived briefly in Toronto before making Vancouver her home in 1965. She arrived by train and was able to appreciate this vast beautiful country of ours. Jay has always been a people person. She began her career as a private secretary, then worked as a secretary at VGH. Jay later worked in customer service at the airport until she retired at the age of 72.
Jay is descended from a line of women including her grandmother and mother who naturally gave to their community and helped others in need. Jay always had a good rapport with seniors. As a child, she grew up in her grandmother’s house where several senior women would drop by to socialize and play bridge with her grandmother. Most importantly, Jay’s grandmother was her mentor.
A few years after Jay moved to Vancouver, she returned to her grandmother’s home for a visit and became aware and concerned about a change in her grandmother who was exhibiting signs of dementia. Jay was shocked by how much her grandmother had changed physically. This experience gave her a greater appreciation of her grandmother’s life and legacy and the legacies of other seniors.
Due to her early life experiences, Jay developed a continued interest in helping seniors. As a volunteer, Jay remembered a saying her mother would tell her from an early age: you get more from people with honey than you do with vinegar. This approach coupled with Jay’s wonderful sense of humor resulted in her ease at making meaningful connections with the staff, other volunteers and her clients at JSA. Jay feels strongly that seniors and their stories and contributions should be celebrated and appreciated. She tries to convey that sense of esteem to everyone she works with.