Medicine For this community leader, ‘it’s not called work, it’s called life’

Medicine For this community leader, ‘it’s not called work, it’s called life’

Medicine For this community leader, ‘it’s not called work, it’s called life’

Medicine

‘I just love making people’s days. It’s the best medicine. I can go to sleep today saying, I helped someone,’ says longtime Bradford resident Francine Grenon

Working at the RBC branch in Bradford during the COVID-19 pandemic was just another way to serve the community for Francine Grenon.

“Was it scary for us? Absolutely,” admitted Grenon, a customer advisor.

But with Plexiglass screens in place, face masks and gloves, she was there not only to help customers do their banking, but deal with the stress resulting from the temporary closure of businesses, the loss of jobs and income.

Clients were worried about making payments and about keeping afloat. Grenon helped provide information on the various relief programs available at the bank to ease the anxiety.

She also was involved in special programs at RBC, like the card-writing campaign launched to show support for front-line workers at Bradford Valley Care Community.

A resident of Bradford for the past 30 years and an employee of RBC for 32, Grenon has gone “beyond” the ordinary demands of the job by participating in Team RBC volunteer activities and organizing monthly fundraising campaigns at the branch for charities such as the food bank and Bradford Coats for Kids.

“My job isn’t a job, it’s something I’m passionate about,” she said. “What better place to do that than in your own community?”

Since COVID-19 put a stop to ordinary volunteer efforts – Team RBC used to roll up its sleeves to fill the shelves at the food bank, work at Scanlon Creek and, Grenon’s favourite, helping seniors with their summer gardening – she found another way to “give back.”

She organized a fundraiser, through dress-down days at the branch, to purchase hand cream for the health-care providers at Bradford Valley, whose hands were becoming chapped due to the constant hand-washing and use of hand sanitizer.

“It was something the guys and gals would appreciate,” she said.

But she also launched the “Just 4 U” card and letter-writing campaign to support the workers, noting that the effort “doesn’t always have to be financial.”

The first campaign delivered about 150 cards, expressing support, thanks and appreciation; a second effort, that also engaged family members and the community at large, resulted in 170 letters and cards being delivered.

“It was a sort of domino effect,” Grenon said. “We support our community.”

The response of the community during the pandemic has been inspiring, she said.

“It just made you appreciate more what you have, the inner strength you have. Each day has been governed by different rules. I’m just so proud to be Canadian.”

Pride in being Canadian is at the root of much of what Grenon does. She is a strong supporter of local veterans and the legion and is best known in the community for another initiative: her hand-made posters that are a ‘thank you’ to all who have served in the Canadian Forces.

For years, she has made the posters, delivering them to local businesses along Holland Street and asking them to proudly display the signs in their windows in time for the legion’s annual Remembrance Day parade.

Last year, Grenon made 160 of the signs as a thank-you to all who have served or fought for Canada’s freedom, signs that were also held by schoolchildren attending remembrance services at the local cenotaph.

This year, in light of COVID, she plans to just make enough signs for the legion itself, but encourages store owners and residents to make their own posters, expressing their gratitude to veterans.

Gratitude and helping others are principles that she has followed “all my life, whether it was just helping out neighbours,” Grenon said, such as raising money or taking the “extra minute” to support those who are struggling.

And among those who are struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic are Ontario’s Royal Canadian Legion branches.

Many branches in smaller communities were forced to close their doors for over three months and are struggling financially. The Royal Canadian Legion has stated that up to 10 per cent of all branches across Canada may have to close.

(Barrie’s legion branch has also fallen on tough times. For our story, click here.)

Grenon is looking for some way to help, to galvanize local communities to step up and preserve their legions, the history of service and sacrifice that they represent, and the support they provide to veterans and their families, local hospitals and youth programs.

“That is our vital thing. For each little community, you have to wake up and see how precious they are,” she said. “If they close their doors, shame on us.”

Grenon intends to keep working on some kind of program in support of the legion.

“I’m pretty good at picking up the phone and asking, do you need help?”

She is also “pretty good” at helping to make her community a more positive place.

“I just love making people’s days. It’s the best medicine. I can go to sleep today saying, I helped someone,” she said.

It’s something that leaves her with “gratitude, and just a feeling of satisfaction, of having done something for someone, with no expectations of return.”

Grenon’s philosophy is simple: She tries to do one positive thing a day, whether it’s a phone call or a card of support.

“It’s not called work. It’s called life.”

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