Gwen Green learned her first lessons in volunteering from her mom, while growing up in the Tottenham area, near Alliston.
Her mother was always active in her church, volunteering in so many different ways.
That was to inspire her when, with a family of her own, she moved to Oro-Medonte. A Kindergarten and Primary teacher, teaching in Orillia, Green became involved with her children’s school, the local Women’s Institute and, of course, her church.
Twenty years ago Green moved to Bradford with her second husband. She wasn't exactly new to the community; after retiring, she had been a supply teacher at local Bradford schools.
But now living in the community, she said, "I thought - I have to get involved with this area!"
That involvement has included a range of volunteer activities. Green has been a canvasser for the Canadian Cancer Society, and a Tuck Shop volunteer and Friendly Visitor at Bradford Valley Care Community, on an “as-needed” basis.
The Tuck Shop role is something that she loves, and has found inspiring. “You meet the caregivers and the workers,” as well as the residents, said Green. “You’re finding out how things have changed. It gives you such appreciation for what they do.”
And seeing the dedication of the workers? “That’s sometimes the most rewarding thing.”
Green joined the local PROBUS Clubs, social clubs for retired and semi-retired men and women. She is now President of Bradford West Gwillimbury Probus.
“That’s a real learning curve. The things I’ve had to learn – the technology!” she said.
But her main focus has always been on her church – Bradford United Church. Green has been involved in almost every aspect of church life at Bradford United, from Sunday School to the programs developed to welcome new immigrants to the community, the multi-cultural dinners, and efforts to welcome Syrian refugees fleeing violence in their homeland.
Not only is Bradford United an ‘Affirming Church,’ fully inclusive of people of all gender identities, new Minister Rev. Eiko Hosaka has reached out to immigrants, offering them a welcoming place where they can adjust to life in a new country, “and give them a feeling of warmth,” Green said.
“We’re not preaching, we’re just giving them a place that’s safe and comfortable,” she explained.
Green is currently president of the Bradford United Church Women, an organization at the heart of the church. The UCW goes far beyond simply raising money through church dinners, and events like the monthly treasure sales, and annual Christmas Bazaar.
“Yes, we raise money, but we do more,” she said – bringing in musicians and motivational speakers, organizing church services that include the World Day of Prayer, providing educational experiences on diverse topics, which recently included the Dead Sea Scrolls.
The Bradford United Church Women not only support their church through their efforts, but also charities that include the Helping Hand Food Bank, Ronald McDonald House children’s charities, Sleeping Children Around the World, and Southlake Regional Health Centre – learning about the work that the organizations do, in Canada and around the world.
It’s also important to Green that there is a strong element of faith in her volunteer work – that the group is “bible-based.” She said, “We’re a very close group. The fellowship is important.”
And volunteering is important to Green. “You do get back,” she said. “You meet interesting people, you really have to think outside of your comfort zone, you learn from other people – and it’s fun!”
As for Bradford United Church, she said, “You really get to know good people, and how much they really do give of themselves.”