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Legion volunteer, Tammy Paglia says volunteering has “changed my life”

Tammy Paglia has made a commitment to the Bradford Legion Branch 521.
Tammy Paglia, president of the Bradford Legion, in front of the dart board that first drew her to the Legion. Miriam King/Bradford Today

“Volunteering begins with family,” said Tammy Paglia.

“My parents have a big family, and they were always helping each other. That’s the environment I grew up in, and that’s why I love to help people now,” she said.

Growing up in Huntsville, she remembers her father as a handyman, who often helped neighbours with their repairs.

Her mom was a caregiver. “There was always an elderly person living in our home, so seniors hold a special place in my heart,” Paglia said.

But it wasn’t until she left home, and started work that she began volunteering herself – initially, on the social committee at her job, then wherever help was needed. She has been a member of the Pension Board of Trustees, served on the Union Executive Board, as Union Steward, and Job Evaluation Rater while working at York University.

Now living in Bradford with her own family, Paglia dropped in to the Bradford Legion about 10 years ago, to sign up for the darts league. It was the start of a whole new chapter for her as a volunteer.

Paglia was familiar with the work of the Legion. She had joined Air Cadets at the age of 12, and said, “We used to go to the Legion every Remembrance Day. I would play the bugle.”

She appreciated the Legion’s support for veterans. “To me, an elderly veteran is an extra-special senior, and a hero,” she said.

Paglia not only signed up for darts, she joined the Ladies Auxiliary, where she quickly found herself chair of the Ways and Means committee.

That was just the start. Over the next 10 years, she served as Secretary, Treasurer, Public Relations, Entertainment Chair, Bursary Honours and Awards, Membership Chair, Sgt.-at-Arms, Vice President, and currently, President of the Bradford Legion.  

“Volunteering at the Legion has changed my life in a big way,” said Paglia. “I used to be a very shy person, but joining the Legion, meeting new people, making new friends has helped me gain self-confidence and self-esteem. Being part of a team, a part of something bigger than myself, gives my life value and purpose.”

At times, it has been a “second full-time job,” Paglia said.

“It’s a time commitment, but if you get a good team behind you, things just happen,” she noted. She was busiest when she filled the role of Treasurer – spending every day after work at the Legion, “and especially all day Sunday.”

Paglia said that she had been inspired in her commitment by the late Frank Lotto.

“When Frank Lotto was president here, he was here all the time – he felt it was a very good place to be,” she said. “Frank was a kind of mentor to me. He’s always on my mind.”

It’s all about service and support for veterans.  “Anyone who is a first responder, or has joined the armed forces, sea, land or air, whether they have seen combat overseas or not, are heroes,” she said. “They have a hero’s heart and that is why they chose that career in the first place.”

Paglia added,” There are heroes in my family and I have met some other very special heroes over the years… I love what I do here for the Legion, for the veterans, for the members and for the community.”

Right now, the Legion is busy preparing for the annual poppy campaign, Remembrance Dinner and services. Looking forward to the year ahead, Paglia said, “I would like to see more members. I would like to see younger veterans join.”

She is also hoping to introduce more activities for seniors at the Legion, even as the hall is updated and improved.

Paglia has canvassed for Heart & Stroke, but gave it up to focus on the Legion. “As much as everything is a good cause, I don’t have time for anything else,” she said. “It’s better to focus 100 percent on one, than 30 percent on a several.”

She may give a lot to the Legion, “but it gives me so much in return,” she said.

And it’s still fun. Ten years later, she still plays in the darts league.

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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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