Isla Sherret was nominated for the 17th Annual Leadership Awards in the Heart of Calgary category for lifetime volunteering.
A lot can be done in 60 years: people grow up, go to school, get married, have children, grandchildren and retire. 60 years of marriage, of work, or life is a big deal. What about volunteering? 60 years of volunteer service is definitely a milestone worth celebrating.
At 93-years-old, Isla Sherret has hit that 60 year of volunteer service mark, and is still going strong.
Sherret started her impressive volunteer career in the early 1950s, and donated her time to what was then the Bowness United Church.
“I was originally asked to volunteer at a library because I loved books. I said ‘yes’ because I was curious, and I really enjoyed it. I was meeting new people and always getting new ideas from them,” remembers Sherret.
Like many experienced volunteers, Sherret saw a need and found a way to fill it; she jumped to action and put her knitting skills to work. For 30 years, she knitted baby sweater sets for the Children’s Cottage. Her knitting didn’t stop there; she also knitted hats and scarves for Calgary’s homeless population, donating her knitted-wares to various shelters and Inn from the Cold programs around the city. When people asked why she knitted so many toques her answer was simple.
“These people don’t have homes, they lose things. I always wanted to make sure they had a toque and scarf to keep them warm,” says Sherret.
It was 28 years ago that Sherret found the Confederation Park 55+ Activity Centre and began volunteering with them. She soon became known as the resident jill-of-all-trades.
Carole Carlton, manager of volunteers at the Centre, says that Sherret has become irreplaceable to her and everyone there. “She always has a smile on her face, and a cheerful thought, there are people who come to the centre who wouldn’t still come if it wasn’t for Isla.”
Every Tuesday you can find Sherret working quietly around the activity centre, supporting the people who frequent it with her consistent and reliably positive attitude. Sherret was hiding out in the background, an unsung hero of the volunteer world until this year when she was nominated for a Volunteer Calgary Heart of Calgary award; an award that recognizes a life-time of volunteerism and spirit in Calgary.
Sherret is so modest that she doesn’t look for awards or accolades when it comes to her 60 years of volunteer service, which is why Carlton believes her nomination for the Heart of Calgary award to be important. “Volunteers like Isla are the lifeblood of volunteerism. If we didn’t have stead-fast reliable volunteers most non-profits would cease to exist,” says Carlton. “People like Isla are critical.”
Sherret’s ability to inspire people is impressive,iIt is her can-do attitude at 93-years-old that keeps people volunteering.
She is an inspiration in many ways; Sherret played tennis and hiked well into her late seventies which inspired many to get (or stay) active, and despite being raised on a farm in Scotland Sherret is a life-long vegetarian.
Camilla, Sherret’s grand-daughter says she has long been inspired by her grandmother. “She provided an example of an independent self-sufficient woman. She continues to volunteer in her 90s and has shown us the value in giving to the community.”
Sherret says she has no intention of retiring from her volunteer work anytime soon. “I put it my maximum amount of volunteer hours after I retired, I keep telling people, you have time to catch up, until then there are always little things you can do,” says Sherret.
“Without realizing it people are volunteering. Just driving your neighbour grocery shopping is volunteering.”