Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of April 24, 2000
An open garage for the poor
CWL to honour Anne Mayhew's half century of aid to those in need
By ANH HOANG
WCR Staff Writer
For the last 50 years, Anne Mayhew has been putting on a garage sale, with one slight difference - everything is free.
The longtime parishioner of St. John the Evangelist Church has opened her garage to prisoners, single mothers, new immigrants, inner city school children and anyone who needs a warm sweater or a baby buggy.
"They come here and ask me for things," she said of the people who frequent her "poor box." "If I don't have it here, they think I can get it."
And she usually can.
Mayhew has been operating what she refers to as the "poor box" from her garage for the last half century. She gets donations of used clothing or housewares from fellow parishioners and neighbours and sorts them in her garage.
When a charity group or low-income family needs anything, she invites them to her garage to rummage through the pile. Even she herself wears some of the sweaters and clothing from the pile. And with the savings she's put aside from not buying clothes, she's helped to build a house for the poor in India.
"I guess it was my calling to do this," said the 82-year-old grandmother. "You have to be led by God to do something like this for this time. You don't just get up one day and do it."
The Catholic Women's League will honour Mayhew with its Elsie Yanik award at the CWL provincial convention in Calgary June 3. The three-year-old award is named after a CWL member from Fort Chipewyan who raised her children alone while also helping to run her local church.
The award is a means of honouring the everyday work of women in the Church, said Lucille Partington, president of the Alberta-Mackenzie CWL council, which covers Alberta and the Northwest Territories.
In honouring Mayhew with the award, Partington said, "She has singlehandedly understood the Gospel . . . of caring for the poor. This is in the spirit of Elsie Yanik. It's a service award. You don't win money; you don't win fame."
But having served the poor for so many years, Mayhew, who is famous in her neighbourhood for putting on a festive annual St. Patrick's Day party, has definitely won support.
A low-income family came to her recently and asked if she could help them find a bed. She asked around and before she knew it someone dropped off an almost brand new single mattress and boxspring at her door.
"Everyone is so giving," Mayhew said. "I have to say that I could not accept this award without the people at St. John's. I wouldn't be doing this without their help."
Mayhew can't recall exactly how it all began. But she remembers collecting clothing for inmates so they would be well-dressed for their court appearances. She also remembers sending boxes of clothing and items to the Youth Emergency Shelter and schools in the inner city. It seems to be something she's been doing all her life.
This kindness and thoughtfulness for others is something that runs in Mayhew's blood. She's lived on her own for many years and can be seen at the local London Drugs or at morning Mass with Tag Along, her Chihuahua. The two have a seat cushion in the front pew at St. John's.
And as much as she has given to her neighbours, she has always remembered their kindness, no matter how small. She writes letters of appreciation to Safeway headquarters when a clerk at the local store down the street helps her with her groceries. She writes thank you letters to her doctors after her visits.
"We can't forget all the little things people do for us," she said. "It doesn't have to be something big everyone has to know about. It's just the little things."
The CWL award is not the first time Mayhew has been recognized for her charitable spirit. After visiting a missionary group in India many years ago, she made such an impression on the locals that they named a cow after her.
"I thought, 'My God, I lived all these years just to have a cow named after me.' That was going to be the story of my life."
But then she heard of the importance of cows in Indian culture.
"Cows are honoured there. They're kind of looked up to as important animals. I heard how cows were loved there, so I thought that would be OK to have one named after me."