Pat Jeffreys celebrates four decades of volunteer service

Pat Jeffreys. Photo Lorna Krawchuk.
Pat Jeffreys. Photo Lorna Krawchuk.

Bob Cairns was building houses for returning veterans in North Leaside at the end of World War II. A number of the semis on Beaufield, Glenbrae and Broadway were his creations.

These houses took on personal meaning when they brought his cousin and her family to Beaufield. Pat (then Wilson) attended Northlea School when it was still a one-storey building, and then Leaside High. A friend’s older brother was Don Jeffreys, whose family had moved to McRae when he was 10. As Pat was finishing high school, Don invited her to a football party at the University of Toronto. They married in 1964 and moved to 970 Eglinton Ave. East (the yellow brick apartment building closer to Brentcliffe). 

Their “Centennial project” for 1967 was buying a house in Leaside. The requirements? That it not be a semi, that it have a private drive, and…that it not cost too much. They lucked out by finding what was to be a starter home on Field Avenue. Don and Pat still live there. 

When sons Ian and Cameron were born, the support systems for mothers returning to work were virtually nonexistent. Ian was born before maternity leave was even introduced in Canada. Daycares were just coming into existence. Lunch at school was run as a volunteer program with one paid staff. Pat’s previous office work was changing with the advent of computers, which made heading back to work all the more challenging.

Pat Jeffreys had just turned 40 when she became a volunteer at Princess Margaret Hospital, agreeing to join a friend who wanted company when she signed up. Forty years later, Pat still has Tuesdays at PMH on her calendar.

When she first started, Princess Margaret was on Sherbourne Street, just north of Wellesley. Volunteers were given bright daffodil dresses as a uniform, and were also required to wear white closed-toe shoes and nylons, even in the heat of summer. Someone came up with the idea of opening a patients’ wig boutique and asked for volunteers to run it. Pat signed on, learning as she went. This small operation continued two afternoons a week at the old location, using the basement hair salon of Princess Margaret Lodge on Jarvis, which was connected to the hospital. None of the volunteers were professional hairdressers, but they learned how to work with wigs to help the patients.

Now, of course, Princess Margaret is at the north end of hospital row on University Avenue. The move started in 1995. Pat was in Australia in 1996, so when she returned the next year, the move was complete.  A number of the old Tuesday cohort of volunteers at the old PMH found it too taxing to work in the new, larger, multi-floored building and didn’t make the switch. Another big change for the volunteers was a shift in uniform from the daffodil dresses to a burgundy jacket and a choice of a skirt or trousers.

When Covid hit, as with many other places, volunteers were asked to stay away. Pat was surprised this past fall when she was asked if she’d like to return. After saying yes, she was surprised by the enthusiastic greetings she got in the morning clinic where she helps patients prepare for their appointments and the afternoon radiation clinic where she helps patients be in the right place at the right time.

40 years! With some time off for visiting her now out-of-town children and grandchildren, and for travelling with Don. Congratulations.

About Lorna Krawchuk 178 Articles
Lorna Krawchuk is publisher of Leaside Life. She is actively involved in St. Cuthbert’s Church. Her volunteer activities with the Leaside Property Owners’ Association led to her being elected a Councillor in the Borough of East York for 9 years before amalgamation in 1998. She also held a variety of volunteer leadership positions with the Girl Guides of Canada for over 30 years. Lorna has been a Leasider since 1968.