Heavenly volunteer flies with Angel Squad

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It’s been 25 years since Jo-Anne McNeil got her wings.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 30/11/2020 (619 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

It’s been 25 years since Jo-Anne McNeil got her wings.

The 56-year-old has been a part of the Misericordia Health Centre Foundation’s Angel Squad since it began.

The annual event sees staff and volunteers dressed like angels line the Maryland Bridge, collecting drive-by donations for a few days during the morning commute.

The foundation is celebrating the Angel Squad’s silver anniversary with a special tree-lighting event Monday.

While the COVID-19 pandemic means that only a few angels will gather, McNeil has fond memories of donning her gown, halo and wings with hundreds of others for past events.

“You’d be on the bridge just freezing your butt off, and the people coming over the bridge seemed so happy to see you,” she says. “You could see the smiles on their faces.”

McNeil worked at Misericordia for 32 years, starting in the kitchen and ending her career as executive assistant to the president and CEO.

She has volunteered at MHC since her retirement in 2012.

“Misericordia gave me so many great years and memories, and I’ve always felt like it was a big family.”

The money that the Angel Squad raises goes toward funding recreational activities for MHC residents.

“Because I worked where I worked, I would hear the real positive stories about residents who would respond to different music therapy activities that they would be able to get because of the money we raised,” McNeil says. “Those kinds of things are so heartwarming, so spending the time freezing on the bridge was worth it.”

Like McNeil, Robin Shreiber — who joined the Angel Squad last year — has seen the impact MHC has on residents.

Shreiber’s father, Al Wilner, was in care at MHC from 2012 until his death in 2017.

Once a strong, six-foot-tall salesman who enjoyed playing softball in his free time, Wilner’s spine degenerated, leaving him in a wheelchair.

The recreational programming that MHC staff provided, including special breakfasts, barbeques, exercise and art classes, and opportunities to sing and dance, gave Wilner a new focus in life.

“(I) can’t tell you the value and importance of everything Misericordia does with its recreational activities,” says Shreiber, 61. “It really saved my dad’s life and extended my dad’s life.”

Given pandemic restrictions, this year’s Angel Squad event will look different than in previous years.

Five angels will be on hand as five donated Christmas trees are lit in front of the health centre to mark the silver anniversary.

The trees will then be transported to Misericordia Place’s gardens for residents to enjoy throughout the holiday season.

The event is not open to the public, but the MHC Foundation is still soliciting donations.

Staff hope to raise $25,000 for programming that will have a positive impact on the lives of MHC residents.

You can donate online at misericordiafoundation.com/donate.html, by texting ANGEL to 20222, by calling 204-788-8458, or by making out a cheque to Misericordia Health Centre Foundation and mailing it to 99 Cornish Ave., Winnipeg, MB., R3C 1A2.

“I would encourage anybody to provide some support if they can,” McNeil says.

Shreiber agrees, adding that being a part of the Angel Squad is one of the ways she expresses her appreciation to MHC.

“I wanted to support Misericordia so that they could continue their life-affirming work, and I wanted to honour my dad,” she says. “He always loved the angels.”

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

History

Updated on Monday, November 30, 2020 6:08 AM CST: Removes subheadline

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