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By Rachel Ganzewinkel, Communications & PR Coordinator, Mission Services of London

For But the Grace of God...

Aldona Scott began her volunteer journey with Mission Services of London in May 2011. She retired from her position as a research tech after 31 years, and her son was about to graduate high school – except he still needed to complete his 40 hours of community service to get his diploma.

“I guess you could say it was a bit of divine guidance that brought me to Mission Services,” Aldona muses. As she was trying to think of how to help her son find an organization to volunteer for, Aldona saw an advertisement for Mission Services in one of the paper circulations that arrive on the doorstep of your home.

“It jumped out at me,” notes Aldona about the Mission Services ad, “it felt like a bit of a prophecy.” The fact this advertisement showed up at the time she was looking for guidance for her son was a sign to Aldona. She contacted head office and set up a meeting with the Volunteer Relations Coordinator to discuss volunteer options for her son. While they were in the meeting, and it was being discussed that her son would be given a position at the Men’s Mission since there was an urgent need for volunteers at that branch, Aldona became interested in a plaque on the wall. The plaque was an excerpt from Alvin Roth’s story and she immediately felt inspired.

“The story spoke to me of a need to give to the less fortunate in our community. As I was reading the story, I kept hearing, ‘for but the Grace of God I could be in the same position as our vulnerable, whether through injury, job loss, or breakdown’”, Aldona notes. The Alvin Roth story touched her deeply and she also wanted to give back to Mission Services for helping her son get his necessary volunteer hours.

“I said I would give the Mission Store six months of my volunteer time as a thank-you for accommodating my son’s volunteer time, and now after over seven years, I do not want to leave,” Aldona says with pride. She is, of course, proud of the work Mission Store does for those in need in our community. It must be said that it isn’t just the employees and volunteers that make the store run to help those in need, “Donators are the backbone of the Mission Store - without their generosity we wouldn’t even have a store!” Aldona notes.

While there are many volunteer roles at Mission Store, last year Aldona spent most of her time volunteering in the Emergency Voucher Program because the need was so great. The Voucher Program is run through Mission Store and it provides families and individuals in need with free clothing and household articles. The system is used by 70+ referring community partners.

“Since the goods we have to give to those in the Emergency Voucher Program depend on donors – we can only give what we have and what people need comes first,” Aldona explains. “These people come from an agency with a list and we assess their needs as well. We have limited resources, so it’s always a negotiation between the wants and needs of clients.” Aldona continues to explain that in Emergency Voucher Program, you begin to learn to know what to look for when clients come to you in need. “With the street population, you need to assess more than the voucher referral which often misses things. It’s like another sense – we see if they need a backpack to carry their belongings around with them during the day and we look at their shoes to see how worn they are in case they need new ones as they walk throughout the day,” says Aldona.

There is a huge need in London and some people are in need for the basics – like a pan, can opener, a set of single dishes, while others have different needs. Whatever the case may be, the individuals and families who are recipients of the Emergency Voucher Program are grateful; receiving these dire items helps to empower them to know they have the capability of taking care of themselves and increases their confidence.

“People just want for you to hear them. We listen and assess what we can help them with, within a reasonable standard, with the resources we have,” Aldona continues about the Emergency Voucher Program.

Since then, Aldona has moved on to rough sorting in the warehouse area of the Mission Store. “It is good to step aside and learn another area – it grows skillsets and strengths,” Aldona mentions. Rough sorting is when a volunteer takes donations at the door and puts those donated items into their appropriate area (seasonal, linens, shoes, jewellery, clothing, etc.). Aldona enjoys rough sorting because “it gives me the opportunity to thank donors personally for their gift because it helps those most in need.”

Before Aldona began volunteering with Mission Services through the Mission Store, she thought maybe she would get a part-time job in her retirement. But, now, she has found all the fulfillment of having purpose through her volunteer work at Mission Services of London. There are so many areas she can volunteer in with a dedicated, kind, and graceful volunteer staff to be surrounded by each day in an inclusive environment where a person can perform tasks suited to their strengths.

“It’s not about money anymore; I’ve learned from clients. I can live with less and I’ve opened my eyes that I don’t need unnecessary extravagances in my life that give only a fleeting fulfillment. Doing my volunteer work through Mission Services is fulfilling because I’m doing good work for a worthwhile cause,” reflects Aldona before continuing, “We’re given what we’re given in our life, and it is best to respond with love and kindness. There’s a connection between what you have, what you have to give, and who you’re helping.”