100 years of giving

Wallace-Black-Alice-Coulthard-min.jpgThe relationship between Lorna Skawski’s family and the Red Cross started with a cup of tea. But that tea wasn’t served over small talk and crumpets, rather on the battlefields of World War 1 where her grandfather, Wallace Black, fought as a member of the armed forces.
“As the men were coming out of the trenches, the Red Cross met them with a cup of tea,” Skawski said. “It probably wasn’t very hot considering what was going on at the time, but they always met them with a cup of tea.”
It was too difficult for Black to speak about his experiences during the war, but that simple act of kindness offered by the Red Cross stuck with him sparking a generations-long desire to support the organization.
“In the good old days, they didn’t have any money,” Skawski said. “So, the support was probably $5 a year maximum and as things improved it got a little bit more than that.”
Skawski believes the donations started shortly after her grandparents were married, likely around 1923 or 1924.
When Black returned to Canada, the family was granted a portion of the Porcupine Soldiers Settlement in Saskatchewan through a government program for former soldiers. The first hospital in the area was opened soon after, operated by the Red Cross. While they never needed to use it, the Skawski family believed it to be an essential part of the fabric of their community, so kept the tradition of donations going.
“We all thought my grandfather was a pretty wonderful person and my mom was very close to him,” Skawski recalled. “My mother knew my grandmother had been donating and she wanted to say her thank-you to the Red Cross as well for getting my grandfather home again.”
As Skawski’s mother, Jean Hilton, advanced in age she needed help with her banking, but continued to prioritize the Red Cross.
“When I said to her, ‘Well, do you want me to send out donations for you? Where do you want me to send them?’ The Red Cross was usually always the first or the second one that she mentioned,” Skawski said. “So, it was clearly something that was very important to her.”
Sadly, Hilton passed away last year, but not before bequeathing one final donation.
2016-Aug-29-deck-4-min.JPGHowever, the family tradition lives on through Skawski.
“I’ve supported the Red Cross for a few years,” Skawski said. “Now with mother being gone, I’m sort of taking over the family donation too as it were.”
These gifts, spanning three generations and almost 100 years, show a remarkable dedication to supporting the work of the Red Cross. It highlights how even the smallest gestures can grow into something that has a global impact. Whether it’s making a donation, volunteering, or even just offering a cup of tea. These small acts have the ability to inspire others.

Related stories: 
Honouring Helena Hardwick, Canadian Red Crosser and WWII ambulance driver

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