After retiring from a career in health services, Anne Chery, 63, followed in her family’s altruistic footsteps by volunteering her time in the donations room at Blue Door Shelters, a safe haven for women, men and children who are homeless or are at risk of losing their homes. As the only family shelter in York Region, Blue Door had to turn away 5,845 individuals last year due to a lack of available beds, says United Way York Region.
What motivated you to become a volunteer?
“I grew up in a family where it was just done. Everybody — my mom, my dad — they were always doing something. When I was busy working, I gave money, mostly — that was how I did my donating and giving back to society. When I was retired I had more time and so I decided to do something. I was looking for something that was not mainstream because I think the big charities get a lot more volunteers. I was also looking for something close to home — I live in Holland Landing, so I’m about five minutes away from Blue Door Shelters. I had brought things there before and I happened to see an ad saying they were looking for a donations volunteer so I thought, I should go for that.”
What was it about Blue Door Shelters that spoke to you?
“It’s a charity that’s doing really good work but doesn’t get a lot of publicity. I’ve always had a soft spot for the less fortunate. When I used to work in Toronto, I would walk from Union Station up to the hospital. I can still remember giving money to a homeless woman and one guy stopping me to say, “Why do you do that, she’s just going to buy beer,” and I said, “Oh, I’m sorry, I thought she was going to put it in her RSP!” I remember thinking, how could you be so mean-hearted? Anybody could be in that position if they had bad luck. And that’s how I see it, and so, if something happens in your life and you don’t have a backup, and you need help, there should be people there to help. I feel lucky because I’ve had so much and I haven’t been in those situations and I want to help people who are.”
What have you given up from your personal schedule to volunteer?
“I don’t sacrifice anything in particular except my time. And I have time. I mark my calendar; every Thursday afternoon I go to Blue Door. That’s what I do, and I’ve done it for three years.”