Whitby Thrift Store Volunteer Enjoys Giving Back

by chrismcgregor
Categories: Divisional News

What began as just another night on the job with the Toronto Transit Commission led Mario Spitale to volunteering with The Salvation Army. For five years now, the retired TTC supervisor can be found a couple days a week at The Salvation Army Thrift Store in Whitby, pricing and preparing jewelry and watches for sale.

While working the night shift with the TTC, Mario was called to an accident scene on the eastbound Highway 401 near Kennedy Road in Scarborough, where a tanker truck carrying gasoline had overturned. Neighbourhood residents living in nearby townhomes and subsidized apartments were ordered to evacuate.

“A lot of people did not have vehicles, so the TTC gets called in to emergencies such as this. At the time, wheelchair accessibility on busses was new.  We had just received some of these busses and I was one of the few that was trained on them,” Mario recalls.

During the emergency evacuation, Mario picked a group of people from the neighbourhood, including three people that used wheelchairs to get around, and drove them to a nearby Wendy’s fast-food restaurant. Next door, a church had opened its doors to the evacuated residents.

“By the time I got there, The Salvation Army had arrived with a canteen van, and they had coffee and drinks and donuts and to tide people over for the night,” Mario said. “A friend of ours, one of the people I work with, belonged to the church. I would alternate every year and give money one year to The Salvation Army and the next year to Ronald McDonald House because of the work they do.”

When Mario, 70, retired from the TTC, he wanted to stay active. He remembered the difference The Salvation Army makes in the lives of people in crises and decided to start volunteering at The Salvation Army Thrift Store in Whitby.

“I believe you must give back. You can’t just take, so I volunteer here. There is a certain happiness about the people at the Thrift Store. They are doing something they enjoy. We know we are helping the community,” Mario said.

He remembers one experience at the store where a guest came in as Mario was preparing an 18-karat necklace for display. She took the necklace out of his hands and immediately proclaimed that this was the perfect gift for her daughter’s Christmas present.

“It’s good to see people be able to afford certain things they normally wouldn’t and it’s great they are able to enjoy certain niceties of life. It is something that a lot of people take for granted. I am sure the daughter’s gift will remain important to her all her life,” Mario said.

Whitby Thrift Store manager Brenda Hornby said Mario is a positive role model to younger staff and volunteers and is patient in imparting his knowledge and skills as a former TTC instructor.

Mario finds it personally rewarding when Thrift Store guests, having been treated with respect at the store, come back and volunteer their time to make a difference in other peoples’ lives.

“You must experience it yourself. I know the people we get to volunteer usually stick around for many years. When you volunteer, you get more than what you give,” he said.

To volunteer your time with The Salvation Army in Ontario, please visit www.salvationarmy.ca/volunteer.