Katia Dekkers: 20 years of volunteering from the heart

Interview with Katia Dekkers, volunteer for the Foundation and the MHI

Home > Blog > Katia Dekkers: 20 years of volunteering from the heart

“My mom underwent a triple bypass in the 1960s here and thanks to the MHI, she lived for another three decades. She passed away 8 years ago at the age of 92. I always said that one day, I would volunteer here.”

Twenty years ago, Katia Dekkers lived up to her promise and began an enduring relationship with the Foundation and then the Montreal Heart Institute.

“My sister worked in the cafeteria for several years. When I went into semi-retirement, she told me I should I meet Carole Gray who works for the Foundation. I then started volunteering right here at the Foundation, on the 5th floor in the old part of the MHI!”

Nearly two decades of memories

Ms. Dekkers is now 80. She’s been volunteering for the Foundation and MHI for nearly 20 years. She remembers when she sold miscellaneous items to raise funds for the Foundation.

Then 8 years ago, Ms. Dekkers joined the MHI’s Volunteer Service headed by Amandine Meriau.

“On Mondays, I would sell promotional items for the Foundation and on Wednesdays I’d volunteer at the MHI. It was such a wonderful experience, there was never a dull moment!”

Once the pandemic restrictions were eased, Ms. Dekkers jumped right back in as a volunteer at the MHI.

Her knowledge of the hospital and her extensive volunteering experience have helped her expertly navigate the significant changes that have taken place over the past few years. These changes include the Investing in Excellence project and the self-registration kiosks in the ambulatory clinic.

When new volunteers join the MHI, Amandine Meriau never thinks twice about assigning Ms. Dekkers the task of training and integrating them into the Volunteer Service. Ms. Dekkers always attentively guides them through their first days at the Institute.

During her time volunteering for the Montreal Heart Institute and its Foundation, Ms. Dekkers has made many friends. She is more than happy to share their stories as if they were her own.

“I know plenty of heartwarming stories about volunteers. There’s the one about Mr. Ortega. He was so fond of the Foundation that he began creating floral arrangements for us to sell in our booths. We didn’t sell flowers at the MHI, and his plants sold so well that people were disappointed when we didn’t have any. He passed away close to a year ago. It was quite the shock.”

Ms. Dekkers is also quick to affirm that volunteering is a way to help get through the harder times.

She shared the story of Mr. Cloutier who lost his spouse shortly after he began volunteering for the Institute. Even if he was going through a difficult time, she insisted he be included in activities. She knew it would do him some good. In fact, he still volunteers at the Montreal Heart Institute to this day!

More than loyal to the MHI

When we asked her if she was planning to volunteer for a long time to come, Ms. Dekkers smiled and said “as long as [she is able to]… and they’d let her!”

“I’m 80 years old so I have to keep moving and remain active. That’s what I need. I’ve seen some volunteers with whom I’ve worked close themselves off and it showed. Some even ended up in the hospital. One thing is for sure, I can’t stay at home knitting!”

Ms. Dekkers’ loyalty is not only measured in years. While some of her friends volunteer for other hospitals, her focus remains the MHI.

“It might be because it’s a small hospital, but it’s a lovely environment where you don’t feel ‘like a number’. I couldn’t see myself anywhere else. During COVID, it was hard not come to the MHI but I don’t think it would have worked out anywhere else for me.”

Ms. Dekkers focuses much of her time at the Montreal Heart Institute and whenever the opportunity arises, she volunteers to help the Foundation with its projects.

“Overall, the staff is friendly and that might be why volunteers stay – because the atmosphere is so nice. I also enjoy helping the Foundation out whenever they ask me. That’s where I started, and you take very good care of your volunteers.”

Interested in donating your time?    

Become a Foundation volunteer and help us with our events and administrative support tasks. Or join the Montreal Heart Institute team, and get involved in one of their many mandates, such as welcoming patients and visitors to the ambulatory circuit, or in the surgery sponsorship program. 

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