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Monday, September 26, 2022
Life in the Pandemic: Finding ways to help others

Even when organized activities are suspended, NOTLers find ways to have an impact

Editor's Note: Life since COVID-19 has changed things for all of us. We’ve experienced hardships, heartaches and challenges, but also new and sometimes unexpected reasons to be thankful. This Lake Report series shares some of the stories of NOTL residents as we all reflect on our experience of life in a pandemic.


Volunteer work and contributing to the community through various committees has been a big part of life for NOTL resident Kim Mustill, but all that changed as the pandemic advanced.

“Many volunteer organizations had to put aside events and pause their activities,” Mustill says, “but you have to re-invent yourself. There’s always a need in the community for volunteer support.”

Mustill didn’t stop helping people when COVID restrictions curtailed organized activities.  

She spent time with her friend Hilda Ellard last summer, building two flagstone patios, two arbours and a split rail fence in her backyard. “I had no idea how to build an arbour,” she recalls, but she learned. Mustill and Ellard are already planning projects to tackle next summer.

Mustill, an avid equestrian, also helped out at the barn where her horse Cassie boards. The barn owner raises and shows fancy chickens and ducks, so Mustill helped with them last summer. 

“I learned a lot about feathered friends, like how to bathe them and dry them afterwards,” she said, chuckling at the memory of the sight of them, all bundled up in towels. 

In addition to riding her own horse, Mustill also helped a friend train a young horse with an abundance of energy.

And then there’s the local cat rescue, where Mustill helps domesticate semi-feral cats, and take felines to the vet when needed.

She is also a member of the executive of the Shaw Guild and, while most activities are paused, the group continues to keep its volunteers engaged, with regular newsletters.

She has a humble view of these efforts, saying, “You just do what you can.”

While helping others helped her get through life in the pandemic, Mustill says some family events have been very hard. 

Her mother-in-law, who was 99, died in June, in Montreal where she lived. Her husband had seen her in February, but couldn’t visit again after that. “It’s hard on the heart,” Mustill laments.

Her mother-in-law was in a seniors residence after being released from hospital following a fall. “We called every day, but we were not even allowed to send her flowers or puzzles. It was tough.”

Mustills’ daughter and 13-year-old granddaughter live in Whitby, and Christmas and birthdays have been marked by FaceTime chats, but Mustill says the celebrations will happen in person once it’s safe. 

“This (latest) lockdown seems to have affected people more,” she reflects. “We all have a little bit of the winter blues.”

But Mustill is quick to move into positive territory, adding, “Let’s just get through February, it’s a short month, and spring is coming! Some of my fellow gardeners have started their seeds inside already.”  

Whatever the challenges have been, Mustill emphasizes how blessed she feels for her friends and neighbours, and says her experiences this past year have only deepened her appreciation of people who matter to her.

She is looking forward to the day she can rekindle those connections in person.  

In the meantime, she says, “I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, which is the vaccine. With that, there’s hope.”