It takes a special type of person to volunteer their time and energy to support those in need. This is even truer when the volunteer work involves a sensitive or difficult cause, one that requires a deeper level of empathy, compassion and respect. Mary Grace Tatangelo, a mortgage agent with Pilrock Mortgages in Woodbridge, Ont., is one of those people.
A passionate believer in helping others, Tatangelo is a dedicated volunteer at Hospice Vaughan, where she selflessly offers her skills and time to support an organization that provides compassion, comfort and end-of-life care. In 2017, Tatangelo was presented with the Volunteer Recognition Award by the City of Vaughan for her extensive volunteer efforts and spoke to us about the importance of making a positive impact in her community.
What made you decide to become a volunteer with Hospice Vaughan?
In 2009, I attended their annual fundraising gala where I learned more about the compassionate grief and bereavement services they provide to patients and their families coping with a life-limited illness or the loss of a loved one. I also realized the challenges they have in raising money in the community and generating awareness of their worthy and important cause. I knew right away that I wanted to get involved and felt I could be of great value as a volunteer.
How do you raise awareness of the Hospice in the community?
I attend many community events during which I meet people, including potential donors and businesses, and educate them about the organization and the positive work they do. This isn’t always easy however, as people don’t always feel comfortable talking about death and dying. It’s not a glamorous charity, which makes it even more challenging to effectively reach people. Having lived in the community for a long time, I am able to leverage my contacts and discuss the valuable services offered at the facility. I do this at every opportunity I get to increase levels of donor engagement and interest. When I believe in something, it becomes a part of me, and I will do whatever it takes to raise awareness and make a difference. In the end, the community as a whole also benefits, so it’s a win-win situation. Once people understand the impact their donation has on the lives of patients in their end-of-life stage, the passion becomes a part of them, too.
How does money raised impact and assist the Hospice?
The services and programs offered at Hospice Vaughan are free of charge and are run on the goodwill and dedication of volunteers. Currently, they are in the process of building a new 10-bed residential facility and palliative centre for end-of-life care where the services will also be available at no charge. In addition to donations, we raise money through our events, particularly our signature gala held in the fall. I am co-chairing the gala again this year and our goal is to raise $500,000, which will be used for hiring staff and helping to expand on their existing services. In 2017, we launched a $12-million capital campaign and by January 2019, we had raised all $12 million! This was a massive undertaking and a very rewarding accomplishment that helped shatter the stigma of talking openly about end-of-life care.
How does giving back affect you personally?
I absolutely love it! I gain a tremendous amount of personal satisfaction from helping others. Life is short and I want to leave a legacy for my family. To be involved in contributing to the new facility means the world to me. I want my children to understand and appreciate the importance of giving back and recognize why volunteering is so rewarding. I never joined this organization to help my business. I don’t talk about what I do for a living because it isn’t about ME. It has always been and always will be about the Hospice and the people it serves. My volunteer and community service is separate from what I do for a living—I don’t volunteer to gain business, I volunteer because it’s what I believe we all should do!
What advice would you give to others who are thinking about getting involved in charitable activities?
Do it because it’s the right thing to do, not because it will bring you business or because it looks good on a résumé. Do it because you want to teach your children and others about the importance of selfless acts. Giving back has to be the best feeling ever. When I won the Volunteer Recognition Award, it was surreal. I was up against a lot of worthy individuals, but I felt in my heart that I had earned it. Apart from financially supporting the organization, becoming a founder and capital donor, it’s the people I meet and the time I spend helping the organization become what it is today, that make this one of the most rewarding and meaningful things I have done in my life!
Are you involved in any other charities?
I support other community charities through donations and attending events, but my heart belongs to Hospice Vaughan. Until the new building is constructed and fully operational, my work will not be done! I volunteer for one other event with the Vaughan Chamber of Commerce where I am an interviewer for the Business Achievement Awards, but this has more of a business-related focus.
This article first appeared in 2019, Issue 3 of Perspectives magazine, first published in August 2019 by Mortgage Professionals Canada.