Service to others is the rent you pay for your room on Earth – Mohammed Ali.
Lots of folks would agree with boxing’s all-time great. For example, Brenda Maylor, the hair-dresser I met at a Salvation Army Kettle at Thrifty Foods.
She seemed to be enjoying herself.
“This makes me feel good,” she said.
Volunteering for the Sally Ann is a tradition in Brenda’s family.
“My grandmother worked for them in Scotland. My mom volunteered in Canada. It’s my eighth year on the Kettle drive. The Sally Ann does good things for people.”
When Brenda’s mom became ill a few years back, the Salvation Army stepped up. Brenda had to get her into a subsidized care facility.
“I didn’t know what to do. They advocated with the government trustee, who sold mom’s house. Mom was settled in a good home with housekeeping, regular meals. When I saw her, she was clapping her hands and stomping her feet to music. I was so relieved and happy.”
Brenda wanted to give back as much as she could.
“I’ve worked in their kitchens, done rig picking [picked up needles], taken kids to summer camps they sponsor. My hubby volunteers, too. We’ve gone out in the food truck and cooked meals on Caribbean Day, and Canada Day.”
If service to others is rent for a room on earth, Brenda over-pays.
She recalls a downtown business association charity when she ran a shop on Dewdney Trunk.
“You bought a tree for $100. The best decorations won a prize.”
Brenda didn’t win.
“My tree was nicely lit, but it was always bare. I decorated it with gloves, toques, mittens and scarfs. When the judging took place, they were all gone. It’s what I’d hoped. They were being used by people who needed them.”
I carry Loonies in my pocket since learning Brenda will “walk around town with a bag of them.” She gives some to street kids.
“Sometimes, they just want to talk,” she says.
Darrell Pilgrim, Salvation Army’s executive director, says over 100 volunteers attend kettles locally, but more are needed.
“Our goal is $90,000. We’re at $25,000, $5,000 less than last year.”
The Salvation Army Ridge Meadows Ministries has helped folks since 1990. The good things it does includes a community meal program – 70,000 a year. It feeds “anybody who needs it.”
The Sally Ann also operates an emergency shelter, a school bag lunch program, backpack drive (school supplies), and Sonia’s Cradle, a program for babies and toddlers that helps buy expensive items like formula. It costs from $5 to $15 a bottle.
The Sally Ann also runs a transitional housing program – 16 beds.
“It’s usually has a waiting list,” says Pilgrim.
At the Safeway Starbucks recently, I noted a pregnant woman drop coins in a collection box labeled “formula for babies.”
Money goes to the Friends in Need Food Bank.
Friends executive-director Mary Robson says 33 per cent of clients have children up to age 18.
“In our Basics for Babies program,” she says, “parents get milk, eggs, diapers and formula.”
Today, 37 per cent of the food bank’s clients are seniors needing high-cost items, such as fruit, canned protein, and meal replacements.
“This year and last, one gentleman donated a four-by-four-foot flat of Boost,” says Robson. “He wanted to give something that was really needed instead of cash.”
There are folks whose jobs let them serve others every day.
Nancy Nagy left a higher paying job to be volunteer co-ordinator at the food bank.
“I wanted to give back to the community. With this job, I enjoy getting up and going to work.”
Robson feels the same way.
“Working with our amazing volunteers is one of the most fulfilling jobs I’ve ever done,” she says.
Karen Osborne, the school meals program co-ordinator, took a job at the food bank to fill a void, she told me.
“I love connecting with people, hearing their stories, being able to help.”
Today, every school in the district gets help with meals or snacks.
At the CEED Centre, Christian Cowley and Teesha Sharma reach out to 18 homeless street kids aged 12 to 18 who live in the shadows.
“They’re exploited by pedophile gangs, and there’s no safe house for them,” says Sharma.
Every night she delivers meals to them. Cash and gift cards (food and drug stores) can be left at the CEED Centre.
Sheldon Kopp, a psychotherapist and authour of If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him, says “it’s a random universe to which we bring meaning.”
Echoing Ali, he reminds us: “You only get to keep what you give away.”
Jack Emberly is a retired teacher, local
authour and environmentalist.