When Darryl Schwartz retired after 32 years with the Culture Department at the City of Toronto and moved to his new house on the banks of the York River he set two goals. He wanted to get better at playing his guitar and he wanted to volunteer in his new community.
He also needed to organize a wedding party and with a recommendation to check out the All Occasion Event Rentals company that is operated by Hospice North Hastings, he stumbled upon an amazing opportunity.
Schwartz laughs when he recalls meeting Hospice North Hastings coordinator Heather Brough for the first time. He had popped in to Hospice to pay for the rentals and of course they got chatting. Within minutes Brough had figured out that the new guy in town had some skills that would be a great help at The Village Playhouse, which Hospice had just started to operate.
“It was an instant connection,” Schwartz says. “I’d read in the paper that they needed people and after meeting Heather I just said – ‘what do you want me to do?’”
Since making that offer, Schwartz has been a fixture at the theatre. He’s training on lights and sound but he’s also happy to serve drinks. He’s been sent for training so he can work at heights and he’s painted a whole bunch of stuff. He’s even done security for a sold-out show.
“I’m happy doing anything,” Schwartz says. “But I did really love being at the show with Cathy Jones. During the show she sees me standing by the door and says, ‘if you’re security – we’re all in trouble.’ That was great.”
And Schwartz is a great choice for security. He’s a tall guy and he’s got swagger but his big heart is what the Playhouse team has fallen in love with.
For the Christmas show that Hospice organized at the Playhouse Schwartz offered to dress as Santa Claus. He had a suit that once belonged to his father so he put it on and became a part of the celebration, greeting theatre patrons and participating in the program.
“My dad would have been so proud of me,” Schwartz says. “This feels really good.”
Schwartz says that he feels really connected to the Playhouse goal of providing caring through culture. This idea that the cultural programming offered at the theatre creates a revenue stream for those requiring end of life care is something that Schwartz says he really values.
“That’s what appealed to me so much,” he says. “It doesn’t matter what job I do – it all goes back to a great cause.”
Schwartz has also made some great friends and he says he has found his fit and that the minute he walks through the door of the old theatre, he feels like he’s in the right place. He says he has a great time when he’s working and he loves the people and the leadership that Brough demonstrates.
“I’m so fortunate,” Schwartz says. “I’ve had a great life, I got to retire early from a great job and now I get to use the skills I had to do the things that I always wanted to do. I get to give back.”
To volunteer with Hospice North Hastings or The Village Playhouse please call 613.332.8014.