Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Longtime St. Amant volunteer sees role as good for the soul

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Chris Schiffmann / Winnipeg Free Press
Jack Froese, with friend Teddy Siwik on a bike, is St. Amant�s Volunteer of the Year.

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Chris Schiffmann / Winnipeg Free Press Jack Froese, with friend Teddy Siwik on a bike, is St. Amant�s Volunteer of the Year.

ST. Amant's records show Jack Froese has volunteered more than 1,400 hours. Froese isn't one to track those numbers, though. He's just happy to help.

For the past 17 years, Froese has dedicated a few hours each week to spending time at St. Amant's residence for people with developmental disabilities.

The 78-year-old St. Andrews resident, who retired in 1994 after a 35-year career with the RCMP and CSIS, spends the majority of his time with Teddy.

Teddy is the 50-year-old son of Froese's childhood friend, Kas Siwik. Froese and Siwik got to know each other in Grade 1 and remained friends until they graduated from high school.

Froese's career took him all over Canada, but when he moved back to Manitoba, he reconnected with Kas, who introduced him to Teddy and St. Amant.

'If you're healthy and well -- and not everyone in the world is -- it's almost incumbent on you to get involved with these things'

What struck him about that first experience, and what keeps him coming back, is the compassion and care displayed by St. Amant's staff.

"You can just see the love flowing through these people when they're working with the clients there," Froese says. "It's an atmosphere that is really overwhelming sometimes."

Each Friday, Froese drives to St. Amant, where he and Teddy go for bike rides, walks, or spend time together in St. Amant's rec room.

Teddy was born with an intellectual disability, and although he cannot speak, Froese says they are able to have good conversations.

"With his gestures and his smiles, he's communicating that way," Froese says.

Kas passed away in 2009, and his wife, Pat, says Froese has been a big encouragement to her, particularly in difficult times. She notes Froese also volunteers with Meals on Wheels, and describes him as conscientious in everything he does.

"I can't put into words how grateful I am," she says. "I know that when Teddy sees him, there's a smile on his face (and) he gives him a big hug. There's a connection there."

Recently, St. Amant presented Froese with its Volunteer of the Year award. He says the award means a lot to him, considering how many great volunteers St. Amant has. Froese recommends volunteering and says it's good for the soul.

"If you're healthy and well -- and not everyone in the world is -- it's almost incumbent on you to get involved with these things," he says. "You learn a lot and become a better person."

When he isn't volunteering, Froese is busy keeping in touch with his four children and eight grandchildren. He enjoys photography and working out.

"Since I'm retired, I'm busier now than I ever was with different things. I think it keeps you young."

Volunteering is part of that. Froese says he gets more out of his visits to St. Amant than he gives. "I consider Teddy a real good friend," he says. "He's fun to be with. It's uplifting."

St. Amant is looking for volunteers. Anyone interested can call 204-258-7048 for more information.

 

If you know a special volunteer, please contact aaron.epp@gmail.com

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 28, 2014 B2

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