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Retired activity director keeps active, involved: 'It keeps me going'

'I love the seniors' Hillcrest volunteer says. 'I find they’re neglected. A lot of their families leave them there'

As a person who devoted her life to service when she was just 17, Diane Percival is a person built to give her time to others.

Things seem to come in 17 year cycles for the 77-year-old Midland woman.

After entering into the Sisters of St. Joseph at the age of 17, she left 17 years later. Then, worked as activity director at Hillcrest for 17 years before retiring.

While it hasn’t quite been 17 years since she retired, Percival plans to continue volunteering at Hillcrest more than a decade after retiring.

“I love the seniors. I find they’re neglected. A lot of their families leave them there,” explains the avid volunteer.

With more than 160 residents, Percival has her hands full delivering communion on Friday to Catholic residents, and sending all residents a Christmas card every year. She also helps with regular shopping trips and whatever else they need.

“I’ve been involved a lot,” she explains, “My husband was a very religious person too. We were always involved in prayer groups.”

Percival maintains an active role at St. Margaret’s Roman Catholic Church where she sings in the choir, and through which she delivers communion and prays the rosary regularly. For the Catholic Women’s League, she helps serve meals after funerals at the church.

You’ll find her muffins at the St. Vincent de Paul luncheon once a month where she also helps serve food to those in need that attend the mass before the meal.

While much of her volunteer work is centred around the church, Percival did work as a nurse after leaving the sisterhood and being inspired by the nursing team that had taken care of her father in his last days.

“The girls said ‘go into nursing because you’re good at it’,” explains Percival. “I thought I can do just as much out in the world, and so I decided to leave [the Sisters of St. Joseph].”

Percival took their advice and became a nurse practitioner working in Guelph and Brantford until moving to Midland with her husband.

Before making the move she took some courses in recreation because of her love of working in rehabilitation.

After arriving in Midland, she found work as the activity director at Hillcrest Village Care Centre.

Even in retirement, Percival had to find a way to give back, and she continued working in home care until her husband’s Parkinson’s required more of her time.

Whether serving her husband as his caregiver, or for the Catholic community providing communion, or helping serve food to those in need, Percival is always giving.

“The thing is that I’ve always been very active in life,” says the retired activity director.

“When I’m by myself, I find I just get frustrated. I have to get out, and volunteering keeps me involved.”

Percival finds herself singing in the choir or to young people she chances across in her travels. As we spoke she was getting ready to perform, Can’t Help Falling in Love for her ukulele class.

Whatever you find her doing, she is always helpful, upbeat and ready to do whatever is needed.

 She adds: “It keeps me going.”