MEMORY LANE: North Van volunteer gives all during giving season

Sheila Trumbley wanted to be more useful.

A mother of three, she served as Ridgeway Elementary’s lunch lady for 25 years. With her husband, and later, her children, Trumbley delivered the North Shore News in the family’s neighbourhood.

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When a person like Trumbley, accustomed to being active and occupied all her life, is retired and living on her own, the urge to serve doesn’t go away. In fact, it grows. Perhaps it would seem finding the right path is a matter of being in the right place at the right time.

Sheila found her niche at a potluck dinner hosted by the Salvation Army. “I went to enjoy dinner with friends,” she says. “When I got up to clear the table after dinner, I heard someone say, ‘don’t let her leave.’” 

The speaker was Ann Marteniuk, a longtime volunteer with “the Army.”

“Ann said I would only have to volunteer for a few years,” notes Trumbley. That was 33 years ago, Trumbley recalls, with a touch of “where has the time gone” in her expression.

As Lt. Alfred Esdaille, who runs the ministry unit and the North Shore Salvation Army’s family services unit, including its giving programs along with his wife Lt. Cathy Esdaille, would say: “When the need is there, the Lord provides.”

In this case, the mutually beneficial provision was an arrangement between Trumbley and the Army.

As the giving season draws closer, everyone in Trumbley’s family contributes.

She is up until all hours baking butter and mince tarts for the Army’s famous Christmas bake sale. One granddaughter baked gingerbread babies and the two youngest decorated, bagged and tied them with red ribbons. The sale will have come and gone by the time this column is published, but there will be others throughout the coming year.

Bake sales are a source of revenue for the Army, as they were in Bermuda, when Esdaille was a boy. “My grandmother was famous for her bread. So much so that people knew to place their orders in advance,” he recalls.

Esdaille’s vocation would make his grandmother proud. Thanks to Dorothy Louise Esdaille, he was raised in the Salvation Army, back home in Bermuda. “It was all we knew growing up and now, it’s my life,” he says.

A great deal of giving, large and small scale, takes place year-round on the North Shore. “People don’t know what goes on in this corner of the vineyard,”
says Esdaille.

The amount of food collected and distributed by the Salvation Army “will blow your mind,” he says. “We feed thousands of people every week through this distribution process. Food comes in and goes out again, first here where it’s needed, and then throughout the province. ”

Among its many services, the Army distributes food hampers to more than 300 families every month and increasing quantities of bag lunches every day. Donations from grocery stores and other partners in the food industry ensure regular meals can be provided through the North Shore’s network of community organizations, churches and schools.

Keeping everything and everyone on track requires a great deal of organization, particularly at this time of year when the Salvation Army, in company with other North Shore service organizations, brings Christmas to those who may not otherwise get to experience it. 

The Army’s women’s group, overseen by Trumbley, makes gift bags for women in shelters while Lt. Cathy Esdaille looks after the Adopt a Family program, with daughter Kayla pitching in on weekends.

This year, holiday hampers and gift bags will be distributed ahead of the Salvation Army’s annual Christmas community lunch on Dec. 18, at which 140 meals are set to be served.

Trumbley’s granddaughters, who help put the hampers and bags together, created their own gift bags this year. “They told me, ‘Grandma, we want to do this because of what you do,’” she says, her voice brimming with pride and love. The spirit of giving, and of volunteering, begins at home. 

“We could not do the work we do without volunteers like Sheila, nor without the food, and the means of distribution, provided by our community partners,” says Lt. Alfred Esdaille.

We may not be part of the Salvation Army family, but we do belong to the family of man. We can do our part by remembering that charity truly does begin at home, and that all of us can contribute, in any way we can, all year round.

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