Bob Williams knows the residents and staff at Copper Ridge Place quite well.
That’s because the longtime Yukoner, musician and volunteer has been playing music at the continuing care facility since it was built eight years ago.
On Wednesdays at 4:30 p.m., like clockwork, Williams can be found at Copper Ridge Place, setting up for his weekly performance, flanked by two posterboard signs that read “Music by Bob” in large, colourful text. These signs were handmade by a resident at the facility, who arrives to sit front and centre for tonight’s musical affair.
The air is peppered with “Hey, Bob!” and “Bob! How are you?” as Williams sets up his music stand and plugs in his amp in the building’s main lobby. He greets staff members and residents warmly on a first name basis as they walk past.
“I’ve been volunteering for 23 years, and here since the first day it was built,” Williams said.
He initially started volunteering at the Thomson Centre in 1994. On his daily commute to and from work, he passed by the care facility and wondered if he should volunteer his time.
“I’ve been a musician since I was 12,” the self taught guitar and banjo plays said. “Every time I walked by the Thomson Centre, it just called to me.”
One evening, when his sister was reading the newspaper, she told Williams that the Thomson Centre was looking for volunteers.
“I walked in one night with my guitar and books and asked if they needed volunteers,” Williams recounts. “They responded, ‘Do we!’”
He started that very night.
After the Thomson Centre closed, Williams moved on to volunteer at the Macaulay Lodge, and finally, to the Copper Ridge Place.
“For me, first and foremost, I just wanted to help. I’ve played in bands, duets and solo, mostly in Ontario bars because I’m from Ottawa, but I got tired of that scene,” Williams explained.
He found he was uncomfortable amidst the smoke-filled rooms and chatty crowds of bar venues. He was searching for something more, and Williams found exactly that when he started volunteering.
“Here, the crowd is listening, attentive and appreciative,” Williams said of his audience at Copper Ridge Place. “It gives people something to look forward to, especially people who might not have family members who come to visit.“I wanted to help, and I wanted to express myself musically, otherwise I’d be at home playing to four walls.”
Every week, Williams plays what he describes as “folky music” in the likes of John Denver and Gordon Lightfoot, and he also plays bluegrass on the banjo. He takes audience requests, but is always sure to play two songs without fail every week – “Amazing Grace” and “The Rose.”
“People are always coming forward to thank me, and sometimes they don’t remember me and they ask how often I come, and I tell them, every Wednesday,” Williams said with a smile.
“I feel as comfortable here with the folks, as I do at home, it’s so relaxed and comfortable.”
Even after so many years of volunteering and playing music, Williams shows no signs of stopping. The retired Yukon government employee of 25 years can also be found busking beside CIBC on Main Street in summertime.
“I don’t know if I’d still be playing music if I wasn’t doing this. It motivates me to learn new songs and to be a better musician.”
Williams says he plans on playing for as long as he physically can, and he encourages others interested in sharing their gifts, to volunteer.
“It’s just so rewarding,” Williams said. “It gives my life direction and meaning.”
If Yukoners are interested in volunteering at Copper Ridge Place, they are encouraged to get ahold of Volunteer Coordinator Catherine Chenier by email at email@example.com or by phone at (867) 393-7508.
Chenier says the positive benefits of volunteering are countless and impact the lives of residents socially, emotionally, physically and professionally.
“You feel more connected to others, and you become less absorbed in the normal stresses of daily life,” she said.
“Volunteering makes us feel good and research shows it has the potential to improve our lives – and maybe even our health.”
Copper Ridge Place is currently looking to fill the following volunteer positions: Friendly Visitor Volunteer, Bus Outing Volunteer, Bingo Volunteer, Music Volunteer, Copper Kettle Store Volunteer, Pet Volunteer and Walks Volunteer.