Three mornings per week, 91-year-old Viola Schaefer stands outside her home and waits for a taxi to pick her up and drive to the Lloydminster Interval Store.
With her, Schaefer brings a bundle of jewelry, which she spent the previous evening untangling - “homework,” she calls it. After exchanging pleasantries and maybe filling herself a cup of coffee, she gets down to business.
“My major thing is measuring blue jeans, putting the tag on and putting them on hangers and getting them out into the store,” she said.
Schaefer has strong fingers, she says, and doesn’t mind chipping a nail or two from time to time.
“Some of that denim is really hard to button and a lot of girls don’t want to do it,” she said.
As the morning ends, so too does her work for the day. She calls another taxi and heads on home - with more homework.
Schaefer has been volunteering with the Interval Store since October 1999, following the death of her husband. She is the oldest active volunteer at the Interval Store, which sells gently-used clothing and items for women and children affected by family violence.
“She is a person that puts her whole self into something. If she’s going to do something, it’s above and beyond,” said assistant volunteer co-ordinator Cassidy Shopland, who has been working with Schaefer for approximately five years. “She has this special touch to things that you just know, ‘Viola did it.’”
In December 2014, Schaefer was hit by a health scare that jeopardized her future, in and out of the Interval Store. She was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“I always say, so long as The Lord gives me the strength, I will do this. I’m doing this because The Lord has been so good to me. I have had cancer and He just helped me over that and I’m right back working again.”
Meanwhile, staff and fellow volunteers continue to marvel at Schaefer’s dedication to the Interval Store, which Shopland says has never wavered.
“She comes in so much, she does so much,” said Shopland. “Even when she was going through her health scares she was still sorting jewelry at her house, untangling hangers. She just has the whole heart put into this store.”
In addition to handling the jewelry and jeans, Schaefer’s formal and informal duties at the Interval Store over the years have included managing the front till, sorting and readying ties and organizing and maintaining the shop and staff kitchen. Oh, and making others laugh.
“Some of her stories, I mean 91 years of experience, she has some funny ones,” said Shopland. “She’s just really great to be around.”