The power of small talk and coffee at Carveth Care Centre

Ray Dorey believes coffee tastes better with friends.

Smiling at the handful of men gathered around him on a Friday morning in April, Ray appears happy and relaxed. 

Laughing at his own jokes, the 62-year-old fills coffee mugs with his specialty brew and talks with an easy banter about his childhood and upbringing as an English Quebecer. 

Gathered around him are male residents of Carveth Care Centre, older men who smile when Ray unwraps a creamy pineapple dessert to go with the dark roast coffee he grinds fresh. 

It is a familiar routine at the men’s coffee club hosted every other Friday by Ray who describes the time as a chance to listen to music, discuss families and reminisce about life.

As a Child Protection Worker, Ray finds meaning in helping others.

“I’m not making any money but I’m helping people,” he says when asked about the coffee club he has been running in the long-term care home for the past five months. 

“This is just an extension of helping people, working with people and trying to make their lives better,” he explains. 

Bustling around the room, Ray offers second servings, napkins and thoughtful remarks. Watching from dining room chairs and wheelchairs, the men thank the volunteer for every act of kindness. 

A group of male residents sit around a table while Ray serves them lunch and coffee“This is just for the men,” says Ray about the one-hour gathering. “We talk about music, we talk about what they did before in their life. Mostly, I let them know they can talk about anything.”

Soon, the room starts to hum with the sound of men in conversation. Their topics range from careers to first vehicles. Several men talk about their service in the war. 

Watching with appreciation, Ray admits with a laugh he even encourages the men to reminisce about what they have done, or where they have travelled, so they can even make it a better memory by changing how it ended - even if it’s not true.

“My dad was forever remembering things that didn’t happen,” he says with a smile.

Speaking from around a table in the centre of the room, Resident Charlie Gray notes with appreciation, “The coffee is good here.” 

A regular member of the coffee club, Charlie notes, “The hour goes by fast. I look forward to it.”

Ray nods his head and acknowledges he looks forward to this opportunity to bake, drink coffee and make small talk, even when a one-hour coffee break turns into a four-hour lunch when he brings extra food. 

“I enjoy cooking and making things,” says Ray. “If I make it, I get to eat it but I also get to share it. I enjoy sharing as much as I enjoy baking.”

Slipping into the room to deliver another resident, Activity Aide Tammy Kean tells Ray, “If I wasn’t married, I’d marry you just for your cooking.”

Ray smiles at the compliment and greets the seventh man pleasantly. He is quick to survey the room to ensure wheelchair brakes are set and toothpicks are removed from food.

Before the volunteer closes the door on the outside world to enjoy the company of gentlemen, Resident Brian Patterson can be heard saying, “You’re good to have around, Ray.”

In photo: Ray (standing) brings the coffee club members lunch and coffee.

This story was originally published by Carveth Care Centre. Reposted with permission.