It Began With Volunteers
“[Volunteers] revive patients’ interest in…community life… They reassure the patient that he will not be rejected because of his illness.” – Frank B. Common Jr., 1958
In 1881, a handful of bold and compassionate Montréal citizens proposed the building of the Douglas to the government. Volunteers fought for its creation, oversaw its building, and established the first board. Since then, boards and committees of the Douglas have depended on the skills and wisdom of generations of volunteers.
Neighbour Volunteers at First Service
A neighbourhood volunteer played the organ for the first church service on September 28, 1891. In the early years, neighbours attended church services at Perry Pavilion alongside patients and staff.
“Did You See Last Night’s Show?”
To the delight of patients and staff, early community volunteers served up year-round entertainment, including:
- Mr. and Mrs. Grumpy” (a ventriloquist)
- Music and magic by Montreal Herald newspaper staff
- Drills by the Highland Cadets
- Vaudeville skits by the Montreal Vaudeville Society
- Verdun Orchestral Society Concerts
- Verdun Cricket Club Concerts
- Westmount Baptist Mission’s Children’s Choir Concerts
- Lachine Player’s Club Plays
- Lachine’s “Bandbox Players” Plays
- Kiwanis Club Choir Concerts
- Verdun Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire Concerts
- Verdun Salvation Army Band Concerts
Local Teams and Ship Crews
In the 1920s, local amateur soccer teams and crews of ocean-going steamers passing through Montréal volunteered to come to the Douglas to play the staff team. During these soccer games, patients watched and cheered from the sidelines, enjoying a link to life outside the Douglas.
In 1924, Medical Superintendent C.A. Porteous, MD, noted, “Miss E. P. Bignell and
Miss F. Montgomery from Emmanuel Congregational Church began diversional therapy. [They invited] a number of ladies to act as voluntary aides… Two afternoons [a week, they] entertained a group of about 40 women patients…in easy physical exercises, music, singing, games etc.
“The patients selected for this type of treatment…are among the most deteriorated…Many of them already are responding quite markedly [to] play and friendship in their lives.”