Shirley Stoner (née Reynolds) 

As a child growing up in Grande Prairie, Alberta, I didn’t realize I was poor. I am eldest of three children, I was born on July 10, 1932, to Reg Reynolds and Freda Raison. My first home was a log cabin with a dirt floor in the bush almost 100 kilometers east of Grande Prairie. My parents had settled there to live off the land. In spite of those hard times, my family would take in a relative, friend or stranger whenever there was a need. Even though times were tough, we had one important constant in life – the knowledge that I was cared for by loving, hard-working and resourceful parents.  

The first time I saw indoor plumbing was in 1945 when my family moved to London, Ontario. After graduating from high school, I attended London Normal School and obtained my teaching credentials. At that time, I longed to be a librarian but lacked the funds to attend university. I held many summer jobs including disinfecting beds after patients were discharged from hospital, scrubbing pots and pans in a nursing home kitchen, supervising playground programs and operating an elevator in Simpson’s department store. In l954 I got married to Bill Stoner who belonged to the same church and by 1958 we settled in Niagara Falls and later had a son and a daughter. 

I was always involved in volunteer work, most often in the church, but also teaching English as a Second Language to new Canadians, volunteering at my children’s school and at the local hospital and cooking for church camps. I obtained my teacher/librarian qualifications and worked for the Niagara South Board of Education for many years. By studying part time at Brock University, I eventually acquired a B.A. in Philosophy. During my later working years, I was the librarian at the Niagara Parks Commission School of Horticulture. This was the job that I enjoyed most and was disappointed when mandatory retirement was forced upon me. 

I was ordained a minister of the Community of Christ in 1987. One day I was approached by a member of the church who wanted to establish a soup kitchen. One of the church’s mission initiatives was to abolish poverty and end suffering so the congregation accepted the plan and began to serve meals in the church basement. When the church’s Out of the Cold program lost its location, it was amalgamated with the soup kitchen to form Niagara Falls Community Outreach which according to its annual newsletter of 2013, they served 42,143 meals that year. I was on the board of directors and also co-ordinated pickups of food donations. 

I often wonder how I got here from my humble beginnings. A poor girl from out west, I went on to become a teacher, librarian, pastor and an advocate for those in need. I’d say I got here because I’d experienced hard times and had the determination to make things better for others. 

1.How long has your family been in Canada?
Since the late 1700’s. 

2.Where was your family from originally?
I have Dutch, Scottish and English heritage.