The answer was a quick “yes” when a friend asked Gail McCall to join the Women’s Auxiliary to Mission Services of London.
“As far as I was concerned, they had done so much for me that I said ‘I’ll do whatever you need!’” she recalls.
Gail worked at what started as the Women’s Mission, later Rotholme Family Shelter, from 1967 until 1989. She knew firsthand how important the Women’s Auxiliary was to Mission Services of London (MSL).
“Our groceries, furniture, linens, diapers – all [were] dependent on volunteer donations,” she says of her time supervising Rotholme.
Founded in 1960, the Women’s Auxiliary hosted monthly luncheons at local churches, each member giving $6 or whatever they could afford to cover the cost of the lunch. Any excess was donated back to MSL programs.
“Fundraising wasn’t the aim though,” says Gail. “The aim was for the women to come and hear a speaker from each branch or from other social agencies and to give items requested by the branches.”
Those items could be anything from clothing and blankets to household appliances, and once even a dartboard for Quintin Warner House recreation programming. Auxiliary members wrapped Christmas gifts, offered sewing lessons to clients of the Women’s Mission and canned fresh vegetables whenever available.
The largest enterprise undertaken by the Women’s Auxiliary was the Clothing Centre, started in 1964. The centre provided clothing and essential household items to women and children through a voucher program. Responding to increasing need, the store grew and changed locations several times before becoming the Mission Store that exists today. Last year, over $74,000 worth of items were given to clients through the Emergency Voucher Program with 1,886 unique individuals accessing the program. Auxiliary members are still reporting for duty as volunteers at the store.
“They really care. It wouldn’t have carried on that long if they didn’t,” says Gail. “They were remarkable people for how much they devoted their time.”
Liaising with the branches, attending monthly education lunches and working in the store presented members with the unique opportunity to act as ambassadors for MSL.
“We weren’t shy about making our communities aware of the Mission,” laughs Gail. “We cared a lot about the community knowing what we were all about.”
Over the years, the Women’s Auxiliary grew to a membership of 400 and donated more than $250,000 to support Mission Services of London. Although the Women’s Auxiliary officially disbanded in 2017, their legacy of generosity and service lives on today through social programs, community outreach, and sometimes wearing a blue apron and a smile at the cash register at the Mission Store.