As part of the Woolwich Community Health Centre team, Heidi Wagner has run numerous family programs and been an advocate for farm safety. Retiring to her Maryhill-area farm and spending more time with her grandchildren will be both a big change and something familiar.
“I keep thinking my retirement will be definitely bittersweet. I’ve really enjoyed the people I’ve worked with here at the health centre and the people in the community that I’ve gotten to know and I’ve been able to work with,” said Wagner from her office at the St. Jacobs centre. “It’ll be hard to leave here because I’ve been here for this long – I thought I would give it five years and it’s been almost 22 years later and I’m still here. It’s definitely been a job that I’ve embraced and I have a passion for. So that’s definitely going to be hard when I don’t have to come into work anymore.”
With eight grandchildren and counting to keep her busy, Wagner will have her hands full. Besides that, she’s an avid quilter with an eye for detail – she plans to keep pursuing that as well as keep up the daily farm chores.
“I feel I’ve made a difference, which I think is everyone’s hope that they’ve, at the end of their term, that they’ve made an impact. I’ve enjoyed it and I keep finding new challenges, new ideas of programs or issues that I can advocate for or that I can be part of. I hope my replacement is equally as passionate as I’ve been,” said Wagner.
One of Wagner’s most memorable moments from her career was helping to develop a program that aided new moms with more education and helped with health checks for the children. She enjoyed strolling around the community and running into the moms from the program years later and hearing about how their children were doing.
“We did a program called ‘HUGS: Health Understanding, Growth and Sharing’ and it was for moms and children from zero to five. We had a program twice a month where mothers and children and babies would come and we would do educational programs for them and do health checks for the children. And that was quite satisfying because you watch these children grow and even now when I meet some of the moms in the community and I ask about their little ones, I hear that they’re 20 years old and finishing university. So that was definitely an enjoyable part of my career,” she noted.
Wagner is particularly well know around the area for her work on farm safety, an outreach exercise that has made her familiar to school kids.
“I did a lot of farm safety teaching in the public schools in our catchment area here in Linwood and Wellesley and Floradale. That’s been quite rewarding because that community sometimes gets forgotten or because it’s a small portion of the general population, but I think it’s very important that they get some of these safety messages; if someone else talks to them rather than their parents or their teachers, they might listen and hear it one more time. So, hopefully, I’ve made a difference in the community.”
Like many others over the past two years, Wagner and the team at Woolwich Community Health Centre had to learn to transition online due to the pandemic. She noted it was a difficult way to reach the Mennonite community and keep them informed as they don’t have access to the internet.
“With COVID, we’ve had to do a lot more online programming here in general at the health centre. And that’s helped some of our community but when you get into the Old Order Mennonites, they don’t have online access. And so some of that is lost to them. So I think it’s sort of been a constant struggle as to how we can keep up with including people that are being excluded. That’s what makes it challenging and that’s what makes it interesting is because you’re constantly stretching your imagination and your thought process how we can improve and how we can make life better for people that live in Woolwich.”
By the end of March, she’ll be finding new challenges as she moves into retirement.