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Sep25WedPam Antoine was helped by The Salvation Army. Now, by volunteering, she happily gives back. September 25, 2019 by Caroline Franks
Pam Antoine enjoys volunteering at The Salvation Army Bethany Hope Centre in Ottawa. Every Friday, the 69-year-old works with the Food Share program, which offers cooking classes and encourages families to eat healthy. When she isn’t there volunteering, she is assisting at the front desk or volunteering during the holiday season at their Christmas Boutique, which gives families the chance to choose some second-hand Christmas decorations to take home.
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- Faith & Friends
“I enjoy organizing the boutique because I get to interact with the young families,” says Pam. “I also encourage others to donate there.
“Six months after retiring, I started volunteering with The Salvation Army as a way to give thanks and to give back for the services I received.”
The Defining Moment
Pam was born in Trinidad and raised by a single mother who worked in a clothing factory. When Pam was 11, her mother moved to England to study nursing, to better support the family. During that time, Pam and her two younger siblings were left in the care of an unfit neighbour in Trinidad.
Unfortunately, Pam and her siblings experienced verbal and physical abuse and, after five years, she had to find suitable housing. But after many difficult housing situations, Pam packed all her belongings and headed to school.
That same day, Pam turned to her teacher for advice and it was suggested that she look into The Salvation Army’s Josephine Shaw House, a women’s hostel in Port of Spain located near her school.
Pam calls this a defining moment.
Help and Hope
“I had never heard of the hostel before but just the thought of this possibility gave me hope,” writes Pam in her self-published memoir, My Island Story.
Pam has a fond memory of a Salvation Army pastor named Major Lane who accepted her into Josephine Shaw House despite being younger than the minimum age of residency.
“Josephine House was very nurturing; it gave me stability and a place to call home,” says Pam. “Major Lane even helped me find a babysitting job on the weekends. There were rules to follow at the house, such as a curfew, but this was the way they provided security and it showed someone cared.”
When Pam finished high school, she applied to nursing school in England. “Major Lane helped me apply to the school and guided me through the process,” she says.
Pam came to Canada in 1979 and worked as a nurse both in Ontario and Alberta, where she completed a bachelor’s degree while raising three children. She later moved to Ottawa, where she worked for the next 27 years with an organization that provided in-home health and support services to the community until she retired. Then she started volunteering at The Salvation Army.
“What a joy it is to have Pam as a volunteer at our centre,” says Naomi Praamsma, executive director at Bethany Hope Centre. “Volunteers are a big part of what we do and Pam brings her own personal style and flair to our daily operation. She’s calm, gentle and caring in her interactions with everyone. We are grateful for her dedication.”
“To me, The Salvation Army means reassurance,” says Pam. “They are good people, a supportive organization, quietly meeting needs.”