Margo Rudolf Coleman 1955

97Toronto Volunteer and Honorary Law Degree Recipient

Margo Rudolf Coleman is accomplished, inspiring and wise. What makes her exceptional is that she’s a lifelong volunteer. A former teacher, Margo has headed projects for a variety of organizations, from the Junior League to hospitals, treatment centres, churches, rehabilitation services, and on and on.

In 2001, she received an honorary law degree from her alma mater, the University of Toronto, for four decades of service to the community and to the alumni association. This year, she wins the Old Girls Award – a turn of events that leaves her “absolutely stunned.” (She’s modest, too.)

The honour, she says, is that volunteering itself is being recognized.

The world, you see, has changed. Sixty-five-year-old Margo is part of a generation of women who were expected to stay at home with the children. “You had the time to volunteer, and we all did,” she says. “But it’s difficult to imagine that the same is true today. I don’t think, for example, that many young women have the time to show up every Tuesday night at 6 p.m. to read to children at Sick Kids’ hospital.”

She talks about solutions – such as companies giving their employees lieu time in which to volunteer. That’s progressive. And she speaks about need. For Margo, in her native Toronto, the homelessness crisis is most tragic. Two years ago, she co-ordinated the Out of the Cold program, feeding the hungry every Saturday night at Christ Church Deer Park. There, she realized “it was more than providing a meal. People came in, they played cards, some of them watched the hockey game. Within these groups, I saw a community forming – the less vulnerable took care of the more vulnerable.”

In the end, it’s all about community and what you get from what you give. “At the end of the day, you do think, I have made a difference,” she concedes – quietly.

Written by Maryam Sanati 1988