OTTAWA -- Mike Soloski is one of the first faces you will see when you enter the Ottawa Hospital. 

“Well, partially see!” he laughs. 

Of course, masked along with the entire COVID-screening crew of volunteers who are now the first stop for anyone needing to go into the hospital.  Patients, volunteers and staff all are screened.  It is a new and challenging post for the longtime volunteer, and a rewarding one.

“It’s really just trying to adapt people to the new reality of what a hospital is.  We really just need to protect people.”

Soloski retired from a career as a bank manager in 2016 and immediately turned to volunteering, inspired by the care at the hospital before the death of his wife from cancer a couple of years earlier.  He says when he broached volunteering while still in the work force everyone assumed he would want to be in finance, drawing from his banking experience.  However, Soloski wanted to be on the front lines.

“The first day I was at the Cancer Centre I just felt at home."

While his family has been very supportive of his volunteer work, he says there’s been some head-scratching about his decision to stay on the front lines during a pandemic.

“They wonder why I’m coming into this environment.  But I’ve shown them pictures, shown them the (personal protective equipment) that I wear and that has relieved their anxiety about what I’m doing.”

Soloski and his second wife have four daughters together and seven grandchildren.  While they’ve had some contact with a couple of the kids during this crazy period, he says they can’t wait to have more interaction, and hugs, when things get back to normal.

He says in the meantime, he knows he is where he needs to be and doing what needs to be done.

“We’re seeing a lot of support from the community and it’s very, very important.  It validates what we’re doing in our day to day work.  The better the support from the community the better we feel about what we’re doing.“

When the pandemic hit he never considered leaving his Ottawa Hospital volunteer post.  Soloski says staying at home and watching from the sidelines was never an option.

“I just couldn’t picture myself sitting at home and doing nothing.  I just really wanted to be where I could be useful. “