At 13, Linda B was in a school-bus accident. Severe damage to her leg resulted in more than 300 surgeries. Over the years, the pain was unbearable and the anxiety was intense, but she found ways to move forward.

“At 18, I started volunteering at a Salvation Army Christmas kettle,” she says, a tradition she has kept for the past five decades.

Shining Through

Linda B’s life was turned upside down after her accident. Skin graft after skin graft and infection after infection were life-altering.

“I wanted to be a missionary in Africa, but because of my circumstances and health challenges, I couldn’t make that commitment,” she says.

At 41, Linda B’s leg was surgically removed, but losing a limb didn’t change who she was. What she had on the inside still shone through.

“I love helping people and putting a smile on their faces. Volunteering on the Christmas kettle has allowed me to do that.”

Volunteering to Help

Through volunteering, Linda B found acceptance and a sense of purpose.

“Sometimes people see the chair, but they don’t see me,” she says. “When you live with a recognizable disability, you can feel both seen and unseen at the same time. Volunteering helps me to feel valued and has increased my sense of self-worth.”

Apart from home care, Linda B spends most of the day alone. Her 40 hours of volunteering at the kettle helps with social isolation, and giving back in this way provides her with meaning and joy.

“I can’t contribute financially to the Christmas campaign, so it makes me feel good to know that when I volunteer, the money collected in the kettle goes directly to helping the people who need it most in my community.”

Puppy Love

For the past number of years, Linda B has been joined at the kettle by her service dog, first Kenya, who faithfully served alongside her for nine years, and now GloriaJoy.

“People really like seeing the dog,” she says. “One year, a little boy asked his mother for five cents to put in the kettle. Then he asked for five cents more and then another five cents. His frustrated mother asked why he was so interested in the bucket. ‘I have to pay the lady to see the dog,’ he grinned.

“Volunteering is an important part of my life,” Linda B concludes.

“I suffer every day with phantom pain, but I stay positive and never give up because everybody needs love and compassion.”

Linda Leigh is manager of communications at The Salvation Army’s territorial headquarters inToronto.

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