For as long as she can remember, Thorold senior Bev Smith has been challenging herself to commit “Three acts of kindness every day."
“All my life,” it's been a personal goal, she told ThoroldToday.ca and remarkably, she has succeeded in staying true to it.
“I grew up very poor on a farm in Nova Scotia and we had nothing. People gave to us, so I wanted to give back. I started volunteering with the blind.”
The oldest of 10, “I made clothes for my brothers and sisters.”
With her flair for fashion, she taught herself to sew and in no time, Smith was duplicating garments after simply looking at them in stores and adding her own creative twist.
Smith's late husband was in the navy and in 1956, the couple moved to Thorold, where he worked his way up to an executive position in human resources at Brock University.
At first, she felt that she “didn't fit in” at the wine and cheese parties mandated by his job, having never gone to school herself. “But everybody loved my clothes.” Soon, she was making outfits for Brock employees.
And though she's never been educated within actual school walls,” Smith taught herself to read and later used that skill to assist Prince of Wales School students with their reading, as well as “in the lunchroom; whatever they needed me for,” she recalled.
Smith and her husband were already the parents of four children when they reached out to foster six others, “three at a time,” she explained.
Three were her neighbours' and three were her sisters' children, both of whom “were having a rough time.”
She was a Girl Guides leader at St. John's Anglican Church in Thorold for “about 10 years.”
According to Linda Brightman, Smith's friend and neighbour, “Bev volunteered tirelessly. Babies, children, teens and the elderly were fed and clothed by Bev, with help from her friends. Every day she makes many phone calls to the elderly and shut-ins, letting them know they're not alone.”
She also volunteered at the Library, at schools, at Hospice Niagara and at gift shops in local hospitals.
Asked how she manages to get to all these places, since she “never learned to drive,” Smith said that various “people in the building help” from her apartment, “and I have a driver I pay.”
For her countless contributions to Thorold and beyond, Smith was presented with the Senior of the Year Award from the Thorold Senior Citizens Association, at the organization’s Carleton Street headquarters last month.
“Beverly Smith is a founding member of the Thorold Age-Friendly Committee,” said committee chair, Jean D’Amelio Swyer, of the group that formed seven years ago. “She has contributed to the success of the committee and always brings a positive attitude to all that she does. She is also an active member of the Ontario Paper Thorold Senior Centre, acting as an ambassador for the Centre by greeting old and new members with a smile and kind welcome. She participates in many events at the Centre, such as the fashion show, bazaars, and many other activities.”
“She has been volunteering and helping others all her life, whether it is baking delicious treats for her friends, sewing and knitting for those in need, or a kind word or telephone call to someone who just needs a comforting voice. Her most recent project is making pillows for the homeless out of milk bags. She tries to do three acts of kindness each day to lift someone’s spirits. She is always upbeat and positive, sharing a smile and kind word to those she meets or those in need.”
Mayor Terry Ugulini knows her personally from her work with the Thorold Seniors Centre and the Age-Friendly committee. “You can be down, you come in a meeting with Bev and she gets you feeling good again.”
Asked how she felt about winning the award, “I don't deserve it,” she said, incredibly. “There are so many other people who help, but are quiet,” not as “outgoing” as she is, she stated.
“It's just good to give back.”