Long-time Volunteer Shares How Giving Back Changed Her Life

Philomena distributes food in yellow plastic bags at food bank
by Linda Leigh
Categories: Articles, Feature, Mobile, Newswire
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Philomena Allicock is one of 136,000 volunteers across Canada who dedicate their time to the work of The Salvation Army. Volunteering has changed her life and impacted the lives of vulnerable people.

“I started volunteering at The Salvation Army in Oshawa 14 years ago,” says Philomena. “I had to quit my full-time job as a housekeeper because of Fibromyalgia―chronic muscle pain and tender points, fatigue and sleep problems. I could set my own hours at the food bank. If I ached, I could sit. If I had pain, I could leave.

“Every Tuesday I volunteer in the food bank handing out food. When I first started, I worked in the back checking expiry dates on cans, unpacking boxes and stocking shelves. One day I was asked if I would help give out food at the front. “I can do that,” I thought to myself.

“Sometimes clients look so sad. They say things like, ‘I never thought I would have to come here. I’ve lost my job and can’t afford food.’ I say, ‘The food bank is here to use, don’t worry.’ I’m glad that there is still something in life I can do to help others.”

“Our food bank cannot operate without volunteers such as Philomena,” says Heather Smith, volunteer and foodbank coordinator. “She greets everyone with a smile, listens to them and tries to brighten their day and give them hope. Laughter can often be heard coming from the distribution room.”

“There are some days when my body says, ‘stay in bed’, but my mind says, ‘I really love what I do,’” shares Philomena. “Volunteering gets me going, keeps me on my feet and keeps me from being bedridden. It is the best thing that ever happened to me.”