Gwen Smith is a young at heart senior citizen. Her contribution to our organization has been unparallel. Donating her time and space in her home to process our teddies was more than we could ask for. We are extremely grateful for having Gwen on our team for the past few years.
Gwen has been involved with Teddies for Tragedies as long as I can remember. She has been our special angel who opened her home to all the teddies we could collect in person, have them delivered to her by the post office and received them from people who drove to Toronto, Ontario from out of town.
In the beginning, we were overwhelmed by the amount of teddies received by the founders of Teddies for Tragedies: Inge Sardy and Val Thomas. When their apartments were filled with teddies knitted by volunteers, we needed someone who had space and time to process all the donations from around the world.
Gwen came to our rescue. She had a house with a large room in the basement which became the temporary home to thousands and thousands of bears since 2001.
She gave us permission to use her address as a drop off point for those able to deliver the bears themselves. Having her address listed on the Teddies for Tragedies website helped those who wished to mail the teddies to us.
As you all know, each teddy comes with a little cotton bag of their own. But, some came without the bags. We have some great volunteers who sew bags for our bears. They don’t knit or crochet, but sew bags. Thousands and thousands of bags. We appreciate their work and donations just as much as those who knit the bears.
When you stand in front of hundreds of bears and hundreds of bags you might get overwhelmed, but not Gwen. She enlisted the help of her small grandsons to put the bears into the bags – usually for some great treats. They loved the idea of “playing” with the bears and matching the bags to the bears – especially with the colors.
Gisele Toth visits several groups of women knitting teddies around the Metropolitan Toronto area and collected bags and bags of teddies. When her car was full, she headed to Gwen and passed them on to her for processing.
The postman visited Gwen on a regular basis with boxes of all sizes and shapes – full of teddies. Once they were unpacked she noted the sender’s information and the amount of bears received, into her folder.
Once her basement was overflowing with bags of teddies, she put a call in to the Distribution Center and asked for a pickup by their truck to come and get the bears.
Eleanor and Paul Ross, Directors of the Operation Christmas Child Distribution Center in Kitchener, Ontario visited Gwen on a regular basis. There were a few years when we collected between 7000 and 9000 bears in a year. All of them were passed to Eleanor and Paul so that their volunteers could pack the bears into the shoeboxes the Center processed each year – and there were thousands of boxes prepared each year – to this day.
This special system worked for a number years and then due to circumstances Gwen moved from her house to a new condo. Alas, we lost our ‘special place’ to process our teddies. Therefore it was time to set up a new system to receive the donated teddies – so the post office box was arranged in 2009 and since then it has worked very well for receiving teddies from all over the world.
There are not enough words to express our appreciation for the contribution Gwen made on behalf of Teddies for Tragedies. There are very few people I know who would open up their home and get involved with processing thousands of bears every year. She has been a very important part of our organization and we are all very sad that she stopped her great work.
A very special “Thank You” goes to Gwen Smith for being a terrific lady with a heart of gold and giving us her help through all those years.
We all wish you the very best for the future and we promise to keep in touch and let others know how very special you are.
Thank you very much, Gwen.
Gisele M. Toth