On Wednesdays, you’ll find Ruth Sinnott at Hope Community Church in Ajax, Ont., sharing lunch and conversation with people who need a meal and a friend. As a long-term volunteer, she knows many people’s stories.

“It’s rare that a lunch passes without me having a one-on-one conversation with someone going through a difficult time and feeling hopeless,” she says. “My life experience has made me able to relate on many levels, and if I can show somebody grace and empathy, I think that’s what God’s purpose is for me. We also have a lot of laughs.”

Sinnott receives a donation from the Pickering Optimist Club on behalf of The Salvation Army
Sinnott receives a donation from the Pickering
Optimist Club on behalf of The Salvation Army

From sweeping the floor at the food bank to serving a meal with the Hope on Wheels mobile food program to representing The Salvation Army at the Ajax Mayor’s Gala and in the community, Sinnott is a committed and faithful presence behind the scenes.

Majors Jason and Tammy Sabourin, corps officers, call her “Hope’s Ambassador.”

A Place of Safety

Sinnott grew up in Toronto, and often attended Rhodes Avenue Corps with her grandparents, who were a source of comfort and safety in her life.

“My home life was dysfunctional,” she says. “I was exposed to addiction, trauma, family breakups and food insecurity. We lived on the verge of homelessness.”

But with her grandparents, and at the corps, she could leave that behind. She participated in Brownies, Girl Guides and played the timbrels. Her grandmother was very active in the home league, and Sinnott helped pack Sunshine Bags, prepare for bake sales and knock on doors for the Red Shield Appeal.

“Every Saturday night was down at Harbour Light,” she recalls. “I spent many hours handing out bread.”

The Salvation Army was a bright spot in her life, something that brought her happiness. It was also her first exposure to volunteering, although she didn’t realize it at the time.

Sinnott went on to get married, start a family and establish a successful career as the director of sales for a Crown corporation. They were busy years, but she continued to support the Army by donating and organizing food and clothing drives. “I knew what it was like to wear hand-me-downs and second-hand clothes, to need food vouchers,” she says.

But about 15 years ago, her life went sideways.

Something Greater

The first upheaval occurred when Sinnott required life-saving surgery. Nerve damage due to spinal injury meant she needed extensive rehab to learn how to walk, talk and write again. Although she was eventually able to find a new “normal,” she was forced to take a medical retirement.

“And then my husband passed away suddenly due to a massive heart attack in his sleep,” she says. Not only did she lose her career and her husband, but she also lost her mother and father within the space of a year. All at once, she was on her own, with two young teens.

“It was earth-shattering,” she says. “I didn’t know what hit me.”

Majors Mark and Isobel Wagner, then corps officers in Ajax, had led the funeral service for her husband. Knowing she was struggling with a sense of purpose, Major Mark suggested she try volunteering at the food bank.

“I went and cried every day I was there,” she says. “But I started to feel part of something greater than myself.”

At first, she helped with the Christmas family sponsorship program. But soon, with her network of business contacts, she was able to make introductions, facilitate fundraising opportunities and represent the Army at events.

Through it all, her faith has given her strength.

“I’ve taken up a lot of airtime praying over the years, but I’ve never felt alone,” she says. “It’s my faith that’s carried me—knowing that God is by my side.” 

Sharing Hope

Sinnott is comfortable sitting in a boardroom as an “ambassador” for the Army, but she’s just as comfortable sitting on the grass outside the Hope on Wheels vehicle, sharing a meal with someone experiencing homelessness.

Sinnott shares lunch with friends at Hope CC’s community meal program (Photo: Holly Bain)
Sinnott shares lunch with friends at Hope CC’s
community meal program (Photo: Holly Bain)

“We all need hope, and we all need inspiration,” she says. “Most importantly, we need somebody to listen to us. For many people going through hardship, whether it’s needing food or shelter, you can feel invisible— you can lose a sense of your place in the world. I know what that’s like.”

Her own struggles have given Sinnott a deep compassion for others, and a desire to share the hope she’s found.

“If I can just give somebody a little ray of respect and share my light, the grace I was given to hold, that’s what I want to do.”

Although Sinnott is a volunteer, she is connected to the Army’s ministry in Ajax every day—and refers to it as work, and her coworkers as family.

“It has helped me regain my sense of purpose, what God’s purpose is for me,” she says. “I’m needed.”


On Thursday, April 18, 2024, Sally Ann Leckie said:

What a lovely story about Ruth..She us a true ambassador for the Salvation Army..I too have volunteered for many years and have grown so much in my faith ..Of course I was names after the Salvation Army ascwelk..such a feeling of gratitude and love I leave with after my volunteer shift..God sure is working in so many lives thru the Salvation Army.. God Bless❤🙏

On Monday, April 15, 2024, Dana said:

Ruth is a shining light at Hope. I’ve seen her in action and she truly is an inspiration.

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