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Brothers saw a need and stepped up to help others amid pandemic

'They’re always up to something to make our community a better place,' says food bank official in praise of Odlozinski brothers

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, despite closures and restrictions, Max and Myles Odlozinski “saw there was a need” for more support and rose to help their community.

The brothers volunteered weekly at The Lighthouse beginning in March of 2020 when the shelter was in need of extra hands. Much of their work included sanitizing surfaces and cleaning, says Myles, though they welcome any odd job with enthusiasm according to the shelter’s volunteer supervisor, Donna Godfrey.

“They’re incredibly reliable, always in a good mood, work well together, work well with staff, with other volunteers. What more could you ask for, really?” says Godfrey.

Since March of 2020 the boys have organized and run 10 food drives and donated more than 2,500 pounds of food to The Salvation Army. Their formula is simple - notify the neighbours ahead of time to leave donations on their porches, then drive door to door collecting food.

Max also began a reading program for elementary students when he heard the pandemic was making it harder for children to learn to read. Ten students at Moonstone Elementary School were paired with high school students in one-on-one Zoom sessions to practise reading.

Though the program took a break for the summer, Max hopes to expand it to include more elementary schools this fall.

Chris Peacock, the executive director of The Sharing Place food bank, knows the Odlozinski brothers as neighbours, food drive coordinators and good citizens.

“They’re always asking what’s next. They’re always up to something to make our community a better place,” says Peacock.

Taking on more community work during the pandemic proves them to be true leaders, Peacock adds.

And while the brothers took on more volunteer roles since the pandemic began, they’ve both been quite involved in community work since beginning high school.

Older brother Jonah Odlozinski started Jonah’s Granola, a granola-making fundraiser, in 2014, which Max then took over in 2018. In the past, the brothers had raised money for volunteer trips abroad, and Max planned to do the same until the pandemic halted those plans.

He continued fundraising, selling granola at Bakes by the Lake and Coco’s Cookies, and donated the money to The Lighthouse instead. Max donated $200 to the shelter last month, and is now handing the brand off to Myles, who will pick a new destination for the proceeds.

Both brothers have grown to really enjoy their time spent volunteering.

“I realized this is something I’d like to do for the rest of my life, and just see the value in volunteering. It’s nice to see (the) real change that you’re making” says Max.

Myles seconds the thought with an enthusiastic nod and a smile.

“Working (at The Lighthouse), you see the people working behind the (scenes) who make things go round and don’t get a lot of credit,” Max continued.

The pair say they’re grateful for the staff at The Lighthouse who guided them as volunteers, and gained an appreciation for people in community service roles through their volunteer work.

The brothers took a short break from volunteering with The Lighthouse this summer, and will resume when school starts again.

Along with the reading program and some more food drives, both will continue working with Orillia Secondary School’s Students for Change group and Max will take over as one of the group’s co-presidents.