The ‘Caring Bench’ initiative begins to foster conversation

Loneliness and isolation are at record high levels in Canada, and Saugeen Shores is no exception.  The pandemic has added a new layer of challenge to people wanting to connect in a meaningful way.

“The Caring Committee” of the local chapter of the Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW) has taken a small first step towards addressing this issue in the community by throwing its support behind the ‘Caring Bench’ initiative.

A bench is a bench is a bench … but a bench with two people sitting on it sharing thoughts and ideas is a ‘Caring Bench’.   “We want these benches to be worn thin from people sitting on them and having real conversations.  The benches are for everyone, young, old, rich, poor, happy, sad, lonely, and not so lonely.   We have more things in common with one another than we will ever know unless we take the time to chat,” says Pat Dobec who initiated the ‘Caring Bench’ project.

On Thursday, September 3rd, an official ribbon cutting for the first Caring Bench was carried out at Coulter Parkette in Port Elgin.  A bright blue colour with a brass plaque that reads “Spend time … Share time”, the ‘Caring Bench’ invites everyone to sit for a spell and, perhaps, share in conversation with another.

The ribbon cutting was carried out by two women, young and young-at-heart, who make a difference in every-day lives.

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“Cyd Gordon is one of the most inclusive people I know,” said Dobec. “She recognizes a need and then quietly meets that need.  She doesn’t need to be asked and she volunteers endlessly – the Bruce Trail, the VON, the Wednesday hiking group, and she is there for her friends when they really need a friend.”

“There are also young people like Emily Scott, a Grade 10 student at Saugeen District Senior School (SDSS), who care,” said Dobec. “This summer she ran a local drive for our food bank and, recognizing reality, knew that many people have pets and many don’t realize they too need food. So, she engaged the local Global Pet Foods to provide food for the pets.  Food Banks, in the summer when children are home from school, run low on supplies and Emil cares … that’s why she did what she did.”

“To begin the initiative, we would like a volunteer to sit on the bench from 10 a.m. to noon and, if someone decides to share it, to engage in conversation,” added Dobec.  “Sometimes people just need to talk to someone else.”

On Wednesday, September 7th at 10 a.m., the second ‘Caring Bench’ ceremony will take place in Southampton at the Art School at that Gateway to the Arts arch.