As we celebrate International Volunteer Day, meet three volunteers who play an essential role in the mission of The Salvation Army.
Community and Family Services, Calgary
After being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2018, I decided to take a step back from my career in engineering because the stress wasn’t good for my health. Once my life stabilized, I wanted to give back to my community, since I had the time. I started by volunteering with the parent council at my daughter’s school, helping to fundraise for new laptops. This rolled into volunteering with my son’s hockey team, fundraising and hosting a tournament for them to attend. Their smiles and love filled me more than any job I have ever had.
I started researching other volunteer positions, found a posting for The Salvation Army’s community income tax program and came on board in January 2023. I volunteer two days a week and, to date, have submitted close to 400 tax returns.
This is a wonderful program that allows individuals and families who may not have the means or capability to submit their own tax returns to receive help. Even if you have no income, tax submission is required to access social benefits or receive GST rebates and climate change incentives. The program runs all year long, as we help individuals not only with the current tax year, but also with previously unsubmitted returns—sometimes up to 10 years.
I did taxes for one man who was clearly struggling. He had not submitted his taxes in a few years and sat there quietly as I started filling out forms. He looked nervous, so I asked him general questions to break the ice. He opened up and we started getting into a deeper conversation as he shared his life story. He poured his heart out and started to cry. I stopped my work and just listened. I was able to share some of my life’s journey with him and made a true connection.
By the end of our meeting, I managed to turn the energy of our conversation around and had him laughing. He had such an infectious laugh that when we left my office, the rest of the employees in the area were having a great time listening to him laugh.
I enjoy providing income tax services for people, but the true joy of what I do is the human connection.
Journey to Life Centre, Thunder Bay, Ont.
John Gobiel started volunteering for The Salvation Army in Thunder Bay, Ont., more than 25 years ago, when he was a client in the Habitat program, supportive housing for adults living with mental-health or developmental challenges. The Army helped him transition into his own home in the community, but he continued to volunteer.
“I love doing it,” John says. “I like the staff and the people here. It makes me feel good to volunteer.”
Gail Kromm, community engagement manager at the Journey to Life Centre in Thunder Bay, shares:
John started out by helping at our Christmas kettles and does a couple of shifts each week throughout the campaign. He is very reliable and loves his job. He will often show up early for shifts and sometimes covers for last-minute cancellations from others.
Two years ago, he was hit by a truck while crossing a street on his way to his kettle shift. He was so distraught that he was not going to make it to “work” at his kettle shift that he had a bystander and one of the paramedics call our office to let us know he wouldn’t be able to make it. Unfortunately, his injuries kept him away from kettles for the rest of that year, but he was back the next year. The only other thing that will keep him from his post is if there is a snowstorm, as he takes the bus to get there.
John has also helped with our soup van for many years. Each night, we have a van that goes out and provides meals to people at two stops in the city. John goes along with our driver twice a week to help serve the food and clean up after.
John is always smiling and so willing to help where he can. He is a joy to be around.
Sydney Community Church, N.S.
When I first arrived in Sydney, N.S., from Nigeria last year, the weather felt strange to me. I was told that winter is even colder, so I tried getting all I would need before winter set in. I went to buy my first winter jacket at the Salvation Army thrift store and saw the church and the food bank. God has met my needs in several ways.
I met Lieutenant Jenelle Durdle, the local community ministries officer, during hurricane Fiona, and I was moved by her warm reception. Somehow, I got to know that volunteers were needed for the food bank. I missed my home country, where I used to volunteer. I felt I was starting from scratch here and needed to know and understand the culture of the people. I also wanted to give back to my community and this is just a little way I can help. I indicated my interest and started volunteering.
At the food bank, I sort groceries and neatly arrange them on shelves, as well as prepare hampers for pick up. After attending to the community and serving with a smile, I clean the space to make it ready for the next day.
I am a student and have found work, but I still come around any time I am free. I also volunteered during the last Cape Breton environmental clean up day in May 2023. Giving back to my community is a driving force for me.
Volunteering makes me feel good and gives me a sense of fulfilment. As a Christian, part of my faith is service to humanity—rendering help to others. It is a way of showing we belong to Christ.