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Growing up as a volunteer

The key to a fulfilling life is helping others, says Bill Jermyn
Bill Jermyn, at Bradford United Church. Miriam King/Bradford Today

Anyone who’s ever been to the Bradford United Church – to a church dinner, a fundraiser, or an event organized and hosted by the Bradford Arts Centre – has met Bill Jermyn.

He’s helped to plan, set up, move chairs, cook meals and, since Rev. Jim Keenan left, serve as president of the Bradford Arts Centre/Bradford Find Arts group, volunteering his time wherever he is needed. 

It’s something that he got into at an early age, “because my parents volunteered and my grandparents volunteered. It’s something I grew up with,” Jermyn said.

His grandparents were farmers, deeply committed to the tradition that neighbours always help neighbours, especially in the face of adversity.

His parents were engaged in their church, his mother supporting bake sales and fundraisers.

It was their example that encouraged him to step up. “I grew up with it,” Jermyn said.

With that kind of background, it’s not surprising that he immediately began volunteering at Bradford United Church, as soon as he moved to the area in 1987.

“I’ve been on the Board, and on committees, and a volunteer,” he said. “I volunteer because I want to volunteer, and I want to help people.”

He’s been vice chair of the church council, chair of the Finance and Worship committees, “and I help out wherever I can, from the plant sale to dinners,” he said.

Jermyn has also served on the Toronto United Church Council – an organization that serves as a kind of bank for the United Church, providing investment services and financial support to individual churches, the Massey Centre, Fred Victor Mission, and camping programs, and making it possible for those programs to carry on.

A past president, now serving his third six-year term on the council, Jermyn explained that the TUCC allows churches to invest their funds, see their money working to support other churches, and access funding for church projects that include renovations.

“To get loans from other banks is very difficult” for a church, he said; the TUCC bridges that funding gap.

Jermyn has enjoyed every aspect of volunteering. “You need to make yourself useful, and you need to be able to help others,” he said. “By volunteering, you’re doing both. You’re making yourself useful. You’re helping the community.”

His efforts go far beyond the church.

Jermyn was a cub leader and scout leader “in my earlier years,” and a volunteer examiner for Red Cross and Royal Lifesaving courses. He’s a founding member of the York Regional Police Choir – a community choir that brought Police officers and residents together in song – and still sings with the Danube Centre’s Goldenaires.

Jermyn has canvassed for the Canadian Cancer Society, and for Heart & Stroke - this year, receiving a Heart & Stroke “golden heart pin, for raising over $500 in my neighbourhood.”

And he’s on the Board of Directors of the Helping Hand Food Bank, and the Bradford Arts Centre.

Even in day-to-day life, he finds ways to help – setting aside a quarter of the vegetables he grows in his garden for shut-ins and seniors, and in winter, using his snowblower to clear the driveways of his neighbours, or a snow shovel when there isn’t enough snow.

It’s just what he does, part of the tradition of service in which he grew up – which is why he’s so supportive of the requirement that high school students complete 40 hours of volunteer work before they can graduate.

“It’s a great idea,” Jermyn said. “It allows the Youth to get involved in the community and help others. Shut-ins, the sick, the handicapped - these people all need help, and by doing that you’ll have a fulfilling life.”

That’s what Jermyn has received from his volunteer efforts. Despite the long hours, despite the challenges, he said, “I wouldn’t give up anything.”


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Miriam King

About the Author: Miriam King

Miriam King is a journalist and photographer with Bradford Today, covering news and events in Bradford West Gwillimbury and Innisfil.
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