Community

Making a difference by making music

Volunteer Willy Schweizer plays a tune on his accordion for an appreciative audience at the Trinity Care retirement centre recently. At age 88 the popular senior likes to visit various centres to play his music for residents.  - Mark Brett/Western News
Volunteer Willy Schweizer plays a tune on his accordion for an appreciative audience at the Trinity Care retirement centre recently. At age 88 the popular senior likes to visit various centres to play his music for residents.
— image credit: Mark Brett/Western News

Willy Schweizer doesn’t mind squeezing in a few hours of volunteering each week.

The 88-year-old pedals his bike around to various seniors residences during the week bringing with him his accordion to play music for the residents and reminisce about the old days. Not one to pump his own tires, Schweizer said he does it simply for something to do.

“I often hear them say they like the old time music and I like to do things for others,” said Schweizer of what has kept him pushing and pulling his squeezebox in front of the crowds.

Schweizer took up the piano when he was a youth and learned to play the accordion when he was offered a chance to buy one.

Growing up in Switzerland, his parents became part of the Salvation Army and he eventually went on to play in the Salvation Army Band. Schweizer is ahead of the curve on the trend of the accordion coming back in style. It has been adopted by modern bands such as Mumford & Sons and has developed a quirky reputation in music today.

But, for Schweizer playing old hymns and patriotic melodies are what gets his audience clapping along.

“He is very shy and doesn’t want any praise of thanks for what he does,” said Hannah Hyland, who volunteers at Haven Hill, and offers Schweizer rides up the hilly street so he doesn’t have to bike.

“The residents sing along with him and he thinks its time to retire from volunteering, but the residents really enjoy it.”

Too humble to accept that he is an important part of the life of the seniors residences, Schweizer has few words when it comes to the service he provides.

Those who watch him and other volunteers come around each week don’t.

“They come in support, friendship, kindness and a helping hand to our residents who often don’t have family that can come,” said Linda Hanford, general manager at Haven Hill.

A small party was held last week for all the volunteers who were recognized for all that they do.

“This is our opportunity to express our thanks which we hope we give everyday to the volunteers. They are so helpful and important to the life our home,” said Hanford.

The general manager said providing musical entertainment is just one of many things people can do if they want to volunteer their time.

They also have friendly visiting, reading, singing, taking residents out for a walk around the property or further afield, sharing skills like knitting or even sharing their faith.

“Everything is welcome,” said Hanford, who added applications can be found at the front desk and they provide a training program.

 

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