Retirement, what’s that?
It’s just a word for Margaret Crawford, this year’s Trail-Warfield Citizen of the Year.
“I find this all very heart-warming,” she shared. “When I got the call, if I hadn’t been sitting down at the time, I would have fainted. It was a total surprise and everything since has seemed surreal.”
Known in the community as Margie, the retired teacher-counsellor has been at the grassroots of so many altruistic initiatives in Trail for 40-plus years, full recognition would take up the entire Trail Times edition.
A passionate advocate for children, seniors and so many in between, what has kept Margie so driven all these years?
It all began in the Crawford family’s Tadanac home. Margie and her sister Kay still live in the lovely heritage house, which is where they took care of their mother, Isabel Crawford, until she passed just two weeks shy of her 104th birthday in 2009.
“I think a lot of it has to do with how we were brought up,” Margie began. “Our father was a doctor here and we saw how he and mom lived in the community, how they were always reaching out to help others,” she explained. “As did all the physicians in that era.”
Her father was Daniel James McGregor Crawford, better known as “Dr. Greg,” and he worked with other well known family physicians at the former CS Williams Clinic in downtown Trail.
Margie has never forgotten the clinic’s Doctor Endicott and an elderly nurse named Mrs Miller.
“As a little girl, I remember seeing the two of them deliver, by hand, food hampers to all the needy families every Christmas,” she said.
“That had a profound effect on me.”
In 1976, Margie began her career in primary education at Central School. She was a learning assistant and taught countless students enrichment as well as ESL (English as a Second Language).
Many of her students were impoverished, some were from violent homes, and many were young immigrants who didn’t understand this strange new world. So Central School was much more than a place to learn to read and write for these young minds – it was a safe haven, as was Margie’s classroom.
“They were terrified, that’s the only word for it, you could see it in their eyes,” Margie recalled. “And some were traumatized beyond words, they would come and be hungry, not having enough food.”
She remembers one little boy who pleaded for his teacher to get him some milk at lunch.
“So I started a food bank,” Margie said. “Through the children at the school I realized that we needed to start a food bank, we’d had the Salvation Army to that point, but I knew these families personally and that they needed help.”
From there, Margie and a few friends geared up in the late 80s, and started a food bank in the Trail United Church.
“Back then we kept it to families with children, because that was what I was dealing with at school,” she explained. “We took them a good-sized bundle, Saturday morning once a month, we did that for years.”
It was around that time, that she and another teacher launched the first counselling program for elementary students, in what was then School District 11.
“He did one side of the district and I did the other side of the district,” Margie reminisced. “We went to the various schools and dealt with children who had some kind of loss or were experiencing challenges.”
Margie remained in that position, which encompassed 22 sites, until her retirement in 2003.
“We had a lot of roots throughout all the schools,” she said. “But I stayed in my Central School room right through until 2001 when the school closed.”
Thinking back to those days brought up another memory for Margie.
“I’ll always remember one mother, she was on her own with four children, and she had terrible asthma,” Margie recalled. “Every morning after the children left for school, she was afraid to be alone. So she would park herself outside my door and sit there all the school day, knowing if she had a problem, I’d get her help.
“We really were a hub for the community.”
Even though Margie retired 15 years ago, she still gets calls from all corners of the city.
“Because you’ve been a part of the community in a certain way, that role doesn’t necessarily change, just because, in theory, you retired,” she said. “People still look to you for support so I’ve continued to do so – it went with the job but the job has really never ended.”
Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Canada was another favourite cause and more recently, Margie has helped run a children’s grief support group through the Greater Trail Hospice Society.
Also, this story would be remiss not to mention Margie’s devotion and advocacy for the elderly through volunteerism with the Society for the Protection and Care of Seniors.
That all started a decade ago when a relative was diagnosed with dementia. There was no bed in a local care facility and the senior was at risk of being left on the street with only her bags.
Margie remembers thinking, ‘What am I supposed to do here?’
Thus began her navigation through the health care system and learning the hard truth- and often heart-breaking truth – about senior care.
“Part of it is that I can remember when that hospital was built,” she said. “And I remember the key people involved, they were few in number. But they ran the whole wonderful hospital, and our hospital is here today because of the seeds planted by those people early on and the volunteer board. Everyone was listened to and everyone had a voice.”
Lastly, there was a very significant event in Margie’s young life that was the catalyst for years of selfless work.
“In 1979, I was diagnosed with cancer,” she revealed. “So I had to stop, as a young woman, and think … you have to live with the effects of radiation and treatment – it changes your whole life around.
“Where you thought you were going – you end up going in the other direction.”
The Trail Knights of Columbus will award Margie 2017 Citizen of the Year in the St. Michael’s School gym on Tuesday, May 8 at 7 p.m. The public is invited to celebrate Margie at the presentation and social hour.