From food to fund-raising, Sandra Tolley is always there
When Rotary Club International initiated an awards program this year to recognize a non-Rotarian for his or her volunteer work within the community, it didn’t take long for Bristol’s club to make its choice.
On Wednesday evening, Mrs. Tolley was among approximately 100 guests of honor when various Rotary clubs held a regional event in Randolph, Mass. to recognize community volunteers.
“If anyone needs anything, she’s there,” Ms. Metaxas said of Mrs. Tolley.
Although flattered by the recognition, and enjoying the evening with her husband and friends, Ms. Tolley said that being recognized for her deeds “seems funny.”
“When I was a little girl, I always wanted to be a missionary. I thought missionaries had to be rich or clever. I was neither,” she said. “You don’t do it for rewards, you do it because you should,” Mrs. Tolley said.
It’s that selfless attitude that made Mrs. Tolley stand out.
“At least four members of the board immediately said ‘Mrs. Tolley’,” said Debra Metaxas, Rotary president. “She’s a wonderful, wonderful person.”
Sandra Tolley, who prefers a hug to a handshake, spends much of her time helping others. Having always lived in smaller communities, it’s a way of life that she’s been accustomed to.
Before moving to the United States, Mrs. Tolley lived in Castle Donington, England, in what she described as “a beautiful village.”
“If someone needed a meal, you just made it for them,” she said of her experience.
After moving to America, she lived in Conn. for a number of years, before she and her husband, John, moved to Bristol. The town’s sense of community attracted the couple. The fact that it shared a name with an English town sealed the deal.
“I’ve always lived in small communities and always lived in towns named after English towns. That’s just the way it’s turned out,” she said.
Once at home in Bristol, Mrs. Tolley began to spread her mission of helping others throughout the community, whether raising money for charitable causes or simply by doing good deeds, she is always looking to help improve the quality of life for others.
Watching older kids who were involved in recreational soccer leagues, Mrs. Tolley noticed that younger siblings were restless with nothing to do on the sidelines. She and her husband began a “micro-league” for the four- and five-year-olds.
“We still see some of these kids today,” she said.
Mrs. Tolley is also noted for her involvement with the East Bay Community Food Pantry. She was on the board of deacons when the First Congregational Church saw a need for a food pantry in town. Once the it was established about three years ago, she saw both a need and an opportunity to add a thrift shop where clients can buy clothes and household goods at affordable prices. The impact it has made in the community has been tremendous, a bittersweet commentary on the economy.
“It’s been a really big success, unfortunately,” she said.
While the Rotary continues its international charitable work in areas such as eradicating hunger, providing clean water, literacy and the elimination of polio, Ms. Metaxas said that it’s the local causes that ground the organization within the community.