Anne's Story

When Anne hears people in her Bolton apartment building lament how they have nothing to do, she says she feels like telling them: "Well, get off your duff and do something."

The 83-year-old great grandmother is certainly qualified to dole out such advice - she has been doing something for her community for nearly 50 years - as a volunteer with her church, the Girl Guides, a phone-in help centre, and the Royal Canadian Legion, among others.

"All of my volunteering keeps me going," says Anne, whose life wasn't always easy-going. The mother of six was divorced in 1971, and she counts 10 grandchildren and 18 great grandchildren. (One of her children and a grandchild are now deceased.)

"The volunteering is what helped make a life for me," she says. "I have friends all over the place. I didn't realize how many until they had a memorial service for my son - all the people who came out."

"When you volunteer, you help yourself at the same time as you're helping others," she adds. "You don't have time to feel sorry for yourself."

Her venture into volunteering took off out of her own volition - she had been babysitting a lot while in her 20s and early 30s to earn some money, she says, and felt a need for adult company. So, she joined the church choir. That mushroomed into variety of volunteering roles spanning five decades:

  • 49 years in the choir and as general helper at Christ Church in Bolton;
  • 49 years with the Ladies Auxillary at Legion Branch 371, including 28 years as its treasurer;
  • 45 years as a Girl Guides leader in Bolton;
  • 38 years at what is now known as Caledon Community Services;
  • In recent years, she's tended the cash register at Chez Thrift, a Bolton thrift store for gently used clothes and household articles. All the store's revenue goes back to support Caledon Community Services programs that assist Caledon residents in need.

Hard work and long hours must be in Anne's genes - born and raised on a farm in northern Alberta, her father was a "walking plough" farmer - he didn't use a tractor - and she fondly recalls stooking sheaves of grains with her siblings.

When she began volunteering in the mid-1960s, it was limited to the likes of church, school, Girl Guides and the Legion. Now, she notes, people have many more places to volunteer and in roles that tap into a wide variety of their interests and strengths.

"I needed an outlet originally, but from that it's become a part of my life," Anne says. "If I had to sit around all day, I'd be six feet under." And, volunteering certainly beats the alternatives that some might consider typical pastimes for people of a certain age. "I can't stand playing cards and bingo," she says with a wry smile.

On April 16, 2010, Volunteer MBC announced Anne as the recipient of the 2009 Lifetime Achievement Award. "We are so happy to recognize Anne for her voluntary contributions," stated Carine Strong, Executive Director of Volunteer MBC. "She is a true example of how just one individual can make such an enormous impact by helping others so unselfishly. What a fitting way to launch National Volunteer Week."

Written by: Brian Christmas