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Community rallies to take the heat off dedicated volunteer

'She gives everything that she can ... that’s the kind of person that she is,' says official of Christine Woodman, who was 'humbled' by helping hand from others
Christine Woodman
Christine Woodman poses in front of the women's dorm at the Lighthouse that has been named in her honour.

Editor's Note: This is the last in a series of 10 weekly articles as part of the Be Kind campaign, an initiative spearheaded by Orillia's Emergency Management Committee.

People who give of their time to their community often say they do it because people need help and because it makes the giver feel good, too.

So, when long-term Lighthouse volunteer Christine Woodman found out the community she’s been diligently serving for so many years decided to give back to her, it came as quite a surprise.

“I was part of the Building Hope (capital) campaign and there was a group of us called Hope Ambassadors. We had a Zoom meeting, in the summer ... and the Development and Communications Manager, Lynn Thomas, said to me, ‘How are you?’ And I said, ‘Oh, I’m so hot!’”

Thomas admits she was worried about Woodman.

“Her face looked quite red and we were in the middle of a really hot spell, like 35 degrees with the Humidex, and I knew she also has some health issues. That concerned me greatly. She’s such a sweet, kind lady," said Thomas.

When Woodman told Thomas she didn’t have an air conditioner, Thomas set off to rectify that situation.

“(Thomas) went together with people from the Hope Ambassadors Committee and other committees related to the Lighthouse and they took up a collection for me,” Woodman said.

“She and her husband (former Orillia Fire Chief Brent Thomas) showed up at my door with an air conditioner and a fan!”

Thomas told OrilliaMatters that talking to members of the Lighthouse community into parting with their hard-earned money was the easy part.

“After that meeting I just got on the phone with many people that know and love her and love her heart for what she does for the community. They would often go, ‘Oh, it’s for Christine? I’m in.’”

The hard part, Thomas said, was calling around Orillia looking for an air conditioner in a year where they were selling out all over due to the heat.

“We finally got her one that would fit her window; she lives in the sweetest little cottage with small windows. We got it and my husband and I went over to install it for her and got her cooled down,” she explained.

“For the many years she’s given to our community and to the most vulnerable people in our community, we wanted to do this for her. She gives everything that she can — her resources, her time, her own passion in her heart — that’s the kind of person that she is," Thomas explained.

"She’s always encouraging, always sending you little notes or sweet little e-cards to lift you up and encourage you. It was easy getting people to encourage and lift her up, too.”

Woodman was overwhelmed at the benevolence of the community she has worked so hard to support.

“The kindness and thoughtfulness meant so much. So many people — some of them I wasn’t even on committees with, so they didn’t really know me —contributed. I was thinking, ‘wow, this is just incredible.’”

While the unofficial gift to Woodman was a much-appreciated air conditioner, she was also recently rewarded for her dedication to the Lighthouse with a dorm named after her.

“When the capital campaign (Building Hope) was over, I got a newsletter naming special rooms for different people and there was a women’s dorm named in my honour. Nobody told me; I just read this,” she said through tears.

“That was so humbling. Charlene Taylor and Deirdre Gibson — there were also two women’s dorms named after them — and I’m thinking, ‘Wow! I’m up there with those two incredible women?’ It was such an honour,” Woodman said.

“The plaque (in front of the dorm) says, ‘This space is named in honour of Christine Woodman,’” Thomas said. “She was very very touched by that. It’s kind of a permanent legacy to have her name there. It was important to have her name on the project, along with many others who’ve done similar things for the Lighthouse, because they just care.”