Due to snow, wind and other bad weather conditions part of a group from Montreal who were on their way to Niagara on the Lake had their flights cancelled on Sunday night.
There were no other flights available until Tuesday morning which would mean they would lose a day and a half of their training seminar.
Trains were totally booked for Sunday because of the weather problem, however arrangements were made for them to leave Montreal around 6 a.m. on Monday by VIA to Union Station.
A bus had been arranged to pick them up and drive them on to Niagara on the Lake, however with all the construction on Front Street to the north of the station and because it was the Junior Hockey Finals…the streets to the south of the station were all closed. Volunteer Ed was contacted and found them in the baggage area (a bag had gone missing) and escorted them through the Telus building because of the bitter cold outside and located their bus for them. The bus company was delighted and will be sending a donation to Travellers' Aid.
We were approached by a man who had left his phone in a restaurant north of Toronto after stopping for coffee. We were able to contact the restaurant who had found the phone and were keeping it for him. Thanking us profusely he set out to retrieve his. One of our many successes!
A previous client came, after 20 years, to thank us. As a refugee she had come to Travellers Aid. The first Canadian she met was a Travellers Aid volunteer who arranged for her to stay at the YMCA. As she now had a successful career she wished to thank us for our help.
A mother with several small children arrived by train but could not find the person to meet them. One of the volunteers, retrieved her own car, and drove them to their destination.
An elderly man boarded the train without his necessary medication. The staff arranged to get it to him by the next train.
One Sunday morning when the subway was closed for track repair between Union Station and St. George Station, Fred was approached in the booth by a group of 21 people from Ecuador, who wanted to know how to get to Casa Loma.
Only one of them spoke passable English and Fred told her that part of the subway was closed for repairs. As he was having difficulties explaining the TTC ticketing system, he decide that it would be quicker to take them to the subway and buy the tickets with them.
While she was buying the passes, a TTC supervisor approached Fred and asked what the problem was. Fred explained the situation and then the Supervisor went onto his walkie-talkie, requested a dedicated bus to take the group to Casa Loma and also assistance in explaining how to get back, using the subway and shuttle buses. He even requested a Spanish speaking driver for them. Then the TTC Supervisor took charge and walked the group to the bus and off they went to Casa Loma.
Fred said afterwards that this was an excellent example of how Travellers Aid could work with other services to help the travelling public, and how proud he was to think of how this must have made the group feel especially welcome in our city.
"George Ponorsky began volunteering at TAS in the early 1980s. When an important job opportunity arose, he worried he would lose his shift, so he invited his wife Zina to replace him. He coached her at the beginning to familiarize her with the volunteer role. To his dismay, when he was able to resume at the Arrivals Booth, Zina didn't want to give it up. She was hooked!
This story ended happily. Both George and Zina were each given his/her own shift. George Ponorsky volunteered at the TAS in the Arrivals Booth for 29 years. He passed away last year.
Zina continues to be the public face of TAS on Tuesday mornings from 9:30 to 1:30. During any one shift she can meet and greet more than 40 VIA rail passengers who approach the TAS booth for a multitude of reasons: They might need a place to stay; they may not have the resources to get home; they may want a referral for a concert, a restaurant, a sightseeing tour; theatre, shopping. Zina helps them all.
Zina knows how appreciative the traveller can be. One particular gentleman has returned 3 times to donate money to TAS in appreciation of a time he was stranded and received assistance from this booth! Many people are surprised and impressed that Zina, and others, are not paid employees, but rather volunteer their time to help travellers.
Travellers Aid Society is grateful for the dedication and support of our volunteers. We are proud to highlight Zina Ponorsky!"
"Travellers are anxious. They arrive and depart, early or late to meet family, the loved and the lovelorn, the lone and the lonely, children, foreign students, athletes, musicians, lecturers, in-laws, outlaws, the rich, the poor, the famous, the happy, the sad, the dispossessed and the just plain scared…
The Travellers' Aid Booth on the Arrivals level between doors B and C and the people who welcomed, gave directions, located the lost, aided the perplexed, the frustrated, soothed the angry, and comforted the ill became history on Jan. 15, 2007.
The closing of the booth in Terminal 2, brings for the volunteers, feeling of nostalgia, accomplishment, service and personal satisfaction. The volunteers who worked at the now closed booth at Terminal 2 are committed to the continuation of their fine public service in aid of travellers, airport visitors, and Toronto tourists…"
"…I started in Terminal 2, which at that time was strictly charter…When Air Canada moved to Terminal 1, we were asked to open a desk…Our work now had a great deal more responsibility. We would look after minors, travelling alone. I personally put a 6 year old on a plane for New York after looking after her for several hours. We also looked after "runners", minors who had run away from home and were being returned under police escort. The local police put them on the plane, the RCMP met them and brought them to our desk until their flight home was due…I have often driven travellers to places in the city, some had no money and were going to hostels. I made sure to put their name, passport number on the books before I left…Recently, I had occasion to help a Canadian, deported from Austria to Canada, as he had run out of money. He arrived at my desk on a Saturday afternoon, was well-dressed, about 70 years old…Another case I remember was a family of mother, sister, a little boy about 3 years old and a tiny baby about 2 weeks old. They were from Trinidad, and had been in Montreal for the birth of this tiny baby…They missed the connection to Trinidad…one bag was missing…mamma rocked back and forth in the chair with this beautiful little baby in her lap, crying…I got it sorted out and they…
"…Thursday June 24, 2010, I spent nine hours in the arrivals level booth in Union Station. My mid-morning VIA Rail had suspended all incoming and outgoing trains. Annette Holman patrolled the Great Hall. Our presence was appreciated by confused tourists holding tickets…it seemed that Travellers' Aid was their main source of information. I met several visitors who were shaking their heads in disbelief and bewilderment…By Saturday Union Station had been ordered closed…We did what we could, when we could. This whole episode should serve to remind "the powers that be" that Travellers' Aid Society remains a much needed resource…"
"Here are some of the types of situations I assisted with:
- Persons who came with their baggage to board VIA as they were not aware of the closure, and needed to know where they had to go to catch the VIA train
- Visitors including families who were staying at hotels in the surrounding areas wanted help on how to get to certain places and areas around the city.
- People who just wanted refunds from VIA to purchase VIA tickets and were advised that to return on Monday when VIA is fully staffed.
- Persons came wanting to pick up tickets from the Express machine as proof not to pay when they board the GO train to interface with VIA.
A publication of the Greater Toronto Airports Authority 2008
Chances are you've heard her voice over the announcements the last time you've travelled through Terminal 3. Or perhaps you've been assisted by her the last time you needed to visit the Travellers' Aid Facilitation/Hospitality Information booth. As a familiar face at Toronto Pearson International Airport, Corinne Deverell has been an active volunteer for the past 22 years making the travel experience a little easier for those coming or going through the airport. Throughout Corinne's 22 years as a volunteer, she has helped her fair share of lost, scared, and tired travellers. "We play a special role assisting travellers and representing Toronto," she says of the Travellers' Aid's responsibility at Toronto Pearson. "To the people coming in, we are the first people they see and want to make sure they are welcomed properly." Deciding to volunteer with Travellers' Aid after taking a year sabbatical from teaching, Corinne bought a round the world ticket, visiting 25 countries. She reflects on her own traveling experience saying, "Often I was in a country where I did not know where to find a hotel, or needed some help with directions and it seemed that people helped me wherever I was. I wanted to give back in a way that I could help others the way I was helped."
Over the years, one particular set of travellers still stand out in Corinne's mind. A family of Mennonites with nine children and an infant beginning their vacation at Toronto Pearson made a stop at the Travellers' Aid desk and asked for a little help. Having never travelled by plane, the family was unsure of what they needed to do. Corrine recalls walking with them around the airport making sure that they arrived at all the necessary stops. "Every week you get a new story from a new person that you had a chance to help," she says, recalling her experiences over the years with the variety of travellers she has helped. Travellers' Aid assists with thousands of inquiries each year. With approximately 185 volunteers who help in the Toronto area, nearly 400,000 travellers across the GTA each year are assisted with a service provided through Travellers' Aid. All the volunteers have extensive experience in either the hospitality or travel industry with many of them havingspent 10 years or more with Travellers' Aid. In a time where technology consumes all aspects of communication, face-to-face help has often been pushed aside. However, Travellers' Aid always has a volunteer who is able to assist, providing a personal touch to the traveling experience, which can be quite stressful at times.
As a charity, Travellers' Aid depends largely on funds collected through donations. Corinne recalls times when people have walked by and made a donation, thanking her for help she had given in years previous. "People don't forget. Sometimes they don't have any money to donate at the time, but later when they come through the airport, they will make a donation."
Anne Martini has volunteered for Travellers' Aid Society of Toronto since September 4, 1976. That's almost 35 years!! She continues to enthuse about her experiences.
From the time she first spotted an advertisement in the Etobicoke Guardian, she knew this would be a perfect fit. After all, she herself had travelled extensively and her children were in school full days. She committed for a full day at the airport every Wednesday. Following training with an experienced volunteer for 4-5 weeks, she was on her own responding to travellers' queries and concerns.
She describes herself as a "people person" and her experiences confirm this. Anne recalls two Americans arriving on Robbie Burns Day. They wanted to bring some haggis back with them. Anne made some calls and found a Scottish bakery that agreed to deliver the haggis to the tourists' hotel. This certainly would have enhanced these tourists' memories of Toronto.
At one time there was a Meet and Assist program at the airport. TAS volunteers were needed to meet cancer patients often travelling from northern Canada where they had limited access to treatment. Social Services would have connected with the TAS volunteer desk and arrangements would be made for a volunteer, such as Anne, to meet the patient from the plane, and get them comfortable in a taxi to go downtown to the Princess Margaret Hospital where they would stay a day or two. Whenever the patient's treatment was over, a TAS volunteer would be available to meet them upon their return to the airport and take them directly to the aircraft. Anne describes the Meet and Assist program as an important component of TAS volunteering and one that benefited many.
It is evident that Anne went that extra mile. She often drove travellers to the subway to expedite their journey. On occasion, she would bring people to her own home when the airlines had to cancel flights.
Anne is now a Board Member of Travellers' Aid Society of Toronto and still volunteers at Terminal 3.