October 3, 2006. Baycrest re-print


Alan Cohen, Volunteer

Alan Cohen has been an active volunteer at Baycrest for nearly four years. When his mother- in-law was at Baycrest Hospital, he and his wife Helen would visit her every day, since they live so close by. They became so impressed with Baycrest that they each became volunteers. After she passed away, they felt so attached to Baycrest that they continued. Sometimes coming several times a week, Alan has logged over 1,000 volunteer hours.

Alan helps to run the religious programming and holiday services. He participates in Shabbat (Sabbath) services on Fridays, leading prayers, helping women light the Sabbath candles and has been a last-minute entertainer. He is to be seen during every Jewish holiday and is a regular attendee at Rabbi Berlat's chaplaincy sessions. This year he even took shofar-blowing lessons.

In all his volunteer activities, Alan incorporates humour and personality. "I want to make it fun, to bring some joy to people's lives," says Alan. He fondly remembers Tillie, who has since passed away. When she once exclaimed, "I need a man!" Alan answered with "I'm available." But Tillie was sharp and shot back, asking "Day or night?"

Alan uses his time at Baycrest to greatly improve the quality of life of all he meets. After chatting with hospital client Molly Sidenberg about games and crossword puzzles, Alan helped her to create her own game called "Molly Words." With a client named Dena, who had difficulty communicating, the two scoured throughout Baycrest, taking photos of different places, objects and facial expressions. Together they created "The Dena Book."

His latest endeavour is "Mr. Frog," a performance he put together with Apotex resident Morris Reiss. At 91 years old, Morris had been singing the Mr. Frog Song (also known as "Froggie Did A-Courtin' Go") for over 60 years. When Alan researched this song, he discovered that there are over 400 known verses to it and is over 400 years old, with possible connections to Queen Elizabeth l.

Alan arranged for Morris to sing this song with children at The Esther Exton Child Care Centre. Morris would sing a line and the children would sing the response line. They practised it several times over the summer. Alan had the performance professionally filmed (with parental consent).

"Alan builds strong relationships with the clients he works with all the time," expresses Syrelle Bernstein, director, Volunteer Services. "Through projects like these he carries out with them, he brings them back into their community."

Alan feels that although he has done phenomenal things in his career as a computer consultant, nothing compares to the important work he has accom- plished at Baycrest. "Baycrest is such a heartwarming place. I can't walk down the halls without having half a dozen conversations."