Volunteers are central to what The Salvation Army does and are present in nearly every area of service—from sorting clothing in thrift stores and ringing bells at Christmas kettles, to proudly wearing the Red Shield as they aid in emergency response efforts. As mission partners, they help accomplish our mission to meet human needs and be a transforming influence in ourcommunities, while sharing the love of God.

December 5 is International Volunteer Day, an opportunity to recognize and appreciate the work that volunteers do and the impact that they have on organizations and people. Here are three volunteers who serve faithfully with The Salvation Army:

Anne and Bruce Ivany, Emergency Disaster Services Volunteers, British Columbia

Anne and Bruce Ivany attend Cascade Community Church in Abbotsford, B.C., where they are active members. Anne leads worship and volunteers at “The Gathering Markit,” a nonprofit grocery store for low-income families, and Bruce is a member of the mission board and finance board. Outside of the corps, the Ivanys have contributed to the mission of The Salvation Army by running various summer camp programs at Camp Sunrise, and, in the last three years, by serving as emergency disaster services (EDS) volunteers.

“We are honoured to put our Christian faith into practice by serving others,” says Bruce. “Jesus calls us to be his hands and feet. We serve him by serving others.”

Most recently, the Ivanys joined volunteer groups responding to the floods in British Columbia in 2021. They spent time at the reception centre in Abbotsford, serving meals and interacting with people who were stranded and could not return to their homes. They also spent a week at the reception centre in Kamloops for those displaced by the floods in Merritt. There, they were able to provide food and a listening ear to those impacted by the floods.

“The stories of how people’s lives were affected by the flood were incredibly moving,” says Anne. “People were appreciative of the efforts of The Salvation Army to provide meals, a caring touch and a chance to talk with someone.”

Following their service during the floods, Bruce gave a sermon at Cascade Community Church titled “Lessons from the Flood.” “People we met in Kamloops who lost possessions and property were inconvenienced, and openly talked about how they missed their community and their sense of belonging,” he shared.

In the sermon, he also spoke about community and belonging as two core elements of humanity that have been challenged in recent years and continue to be tested through events such as the floods in British Columbia.

“God wants you to lift those around you up, whether it’s helping someone you don’t know, giving a friend an encouraging boost or being a shoulder to lean on in a tough time,” Bruce shared. “We all succeed when we help one another. May we each be challenged in what we can do as individuals, and as a congregation, to play our part in meeting the needs of others and building community and belonging for all.”

Mario Spitale, Thrift Store Volunteer, Ontario

Mario Spitale prices jewelry for sale at the Army’s thrift store in Whitby, Ont.
Mario Spitale prices jewelry for sale at the Army’s thrift store in Whitby, Ont.

What began as just another night on the job with the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) led Mario Spitale to volunteering with The Salvation Army. For five years now, the retired TTC supervisor has been volunteering at the Salvation Army thrift store in Whitby, Ont., pricing and preparing jewelry and watches for sale.

While working the night shift with theTTC, Spitale was called to an accident where a tanker truck carrying gasoline had overturned. Residents living in nearby townhomes and subsidized apartments were ordered to evacuate.

“A lot of people did not have vehicles—the TTC gets called in to emergencies such as this. By the time I got there, The Salvation Army had arrived with a canteen van, and they had coffee, drinks and doughnuts to tide people over for the night,” Spitale says. “A friend of ours, one of the people I work with, belonged to the church. I would alternate every year and give money one year to The Salvation Army and the next year to Ronald McDonald House because of the work they do.”

When Spitale, 70, retired from the TTC, he wanted to stay active. He remembered the difference The Salvation Army makes in the lives of people in crisis and decided to start volunteering at the thrift store in Whitby.

“I believe you must give back. You can’t just take, so I volunteer here. There is a certain happiness about the people at the thrift store. They are doing something they enjoy. We know we are helping the community,” Spitale says.

He remembers one experience at the store when a guest came in as Spitale was preparing an 18-karat gold necklace for display. She took the necklace out of his hands and immediately proclaimed that this was the perfect Christmas gift for her daughter.

“It’s good to see people be able to afford certain things they normally wouldn’t, and it’s great they are able to enjoy certain niceties of life. It is something that a lot of people take for granted. I am sure the daughter’s gift will remain important to her all her life,” Spitale says.

He finds it personally rewarding when thrift store guests, having been treated with respect atthe store, come back and volunteer their time to make a difference in the lives of others.

“You must experience it yourself. I know the people we get to volunteer usually stick around for many years. When you volunteer, you get more than what you give,” he says.

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