For Lina, volunteering is part of her DNA. When volunteering at Michael Garron Hospital (MGH) was suspended in the spring of 2020 due to COVID-19, she quickly found a new and amazing way to make an impact.
“Wanting to help, but not being able to help within the hospital, I started making masks for MGH when the request was put forward by the hospital,” says Lina.
For Lina, making masks was all about supporting her community and being a good neighbour. “Being a good neighbour means everything! I try to help where I can. I’m following in my grandmother’s and mother’s footsteps. Although we had very little while I was growing up, I clearly remember them always helping families less fortunate than ours by giving them packages of clothing and food,” says Lina.
“To know I am doing some small part in helping in a crisis is such a rewarding feeling. I’m simply paying forward all the people that helped me in my life.”
Lina was glad to have a way to help her community while staying safe at home.
“Masks were hard to come by, and so my family and friends wanted my masks to protect themselves. Some of my friends wanted to pay me, but I refused as I was not doing them in order to make money, but just to help in a dire situation,” Lina notes. “Then one of my friends said, ‘Lina, just take the money and donate it to the hospital!’ Which is what I did. From there it grew and grew, as more people wanted masks, and of course I kept improving the masks.”
As demand grew for Lina’s masks, she started selling them from her driveway, and then from her daughter’s driveway too.
Not only was Lina selling her masks, but she continued to make and donate masks to MGH, donating about 3,000 in total. “This year the need is no longer there as most stores are selling masks. So I donated most of my stash to the hospital and reclaimed my dining room,” she laughs.
“In supporting my community I know I am making a tiny difference to someone’s life, thus raising the community just a tad. I remember clearly all the community members who helped me, a scared child in a new country, understanding not a word of English. I am who I am because of these people in my life. They made all the difference for me. I hope to do the same for others.”
Michael Garron Hospital holds a special place in Lina’s heart. “When we emigrated from Italy in the late 1950s, we lived in the Gerrard and Main area. MGH was where many of my cousins were born, and many illnesses solved. My father drew his last breath there. I moved away for a while, and then eventually returned in the Birchcliff area. About four years ago I had surgery there. I remember thinking, ‘How did I not know how great, kind and compassionate the staff at MGH are?’ It’s truly a hidden gem! It was at that moment that I pledged to volunteer at MGH once I was on my feet again, which I did.”
Lina believes anyone can help their community. “I never would have imagined I would raise $10,000 by making masks! The opportunity presented itself and I took it. All I wanted to do was help in the situation we were all in. I believe I made a difference. If you want to help your community, you need to be open to all possibilities. Every little thing helps.”
“You can never really know the full impact a little act of kindness can have on someone. It’s our obligation as humans to help when we can. It makes one realize the true priorities in life. Can there be anything better than having a hand in being part of improving someone’s life?!”
Read more about Lina’s story.