Maggie's Story: A Habit of Giving

Maggie Hayes takes no credit for goodness, although as a donor to New Circles, she is doing great good.  But for Maggie, helping others is second nature.  Her own family came here, generations ago, in the early 1800s. Some came from Ireland fleeing famine, some from the north of England and southern Scotland - workers no longer needed by the landowners.

They came to central Ontario, a place so cold in the winter, so inhospitable a place to start a new life that, according to Maggie’s father, “Without help, our sorry lot wouldn’t have survived.” Down through the generations, Maggie’s family has remained grateful for the generosity shown their ancestors, and has developed a habit of giving.

Maggie’s father, for example, once arranged to have a new roof put on a struggling widow’s house. The widow and mother of two children paid nothing. Another time, he made arrangements for one of his employees to fulfill a dream - the dream of becoming a teacher, by shifting the employee’s schedule to accommodate his classes and giving him financial help to allow for the classes this young man needed to earn a degree.

But Maggie’s father always gave anonymously. Her family only learned of this from a thank-you letter written by the man her father had helped - a letter found after her father died. Another such letter of thanks emerged: Maggie’s father had helped pay for the down payment on another man’s house. And, it turns out, there were other anonymous kindnesses. Maggie’s son once travelled up north with her father. People would take her son aside and tell him, “Your grandfather helped me.”

Maggie’s mother – of similar type – visited the sick and elderly, providing them with food and company. She volunteered her time and energies – in this and other ways - until she was in her eighties.  Maggie’s parents, whose own money was limited, put aside a set amount each month for donation.

Maggie’s support of New Circles was inspired by a meeting several years ago with its founder, Cindy Blakely. It was a thrilling and electric moment, Maggie says. Blakely, who had worked as a social worker with the Toronto District School Board, described witnessing immigrant children arriving at New Circles in winter, wearing only sandals on their feet and in need of boots. Maggie knew she must become involved. Here was a direct and immediate means to offer help.

Operating in large part as a financial donor, Maggie donates clothing and actively encourages others to do so, as well. Her children carry on the family tradition of giving, volunteering and fundraising, as do Maggie’s grandchildren and friends.

One such friend, a hedge fund manager, noted that his colleagues tended to renew their wardrobes every few months. He began to collect their barely-used suits, and donate them to New Circles. A grandson recently made a presentation about New Circles at school. He used Monopoly money to explain to his classmates the tough financial choices that refugees often face.

Giving comes naturally to this family, passed on from one generation to the next.  Maggie takes no credit; in her family, it is simply how one behaves.

Story by Barbara Nichol

Photo by Donna Griffith Photography

New Circles' GLOW clothing service is the largest clothing bank in Toronto. We help 9,000 families annually.