Delhi senior has donated thousands to area charities
A secret Santa serving the Delhi area for years finally stepped forward on the weekend. He's Bruce Martin, 89, of Delhi, at centre. In collaboration with Matt Wilkinson, right, owner of Wilkinson’s Your Independent Grocer, Martin has donated tens of thousands of dollars over the years to the Sharing Pantry food bank in Delhi. At left is food bank representative Andy Fitch, who received another $1,000 cheque from Martin on Saturday. MONTE SONNENBERG / SIMCOE REFORMER
Bruce Martin’s family had a tough time of it during the Great Depression.
Hunger was a frequent and unwelcome guest.
Martin’s family occasionally went without food. Sometimes, the only food in the house for days on end was raw oatmeal in a large cloth bag.
Martin’s life improved considerably when he moved to Delhi in 1950 and set up a successful refrigeration business. He had a front-row seat for tobacco’s best years and prospered along with the rest of the community.
But Martin never forgot the hard times or the fact they never really go away for some households.
Martin, 89, has been giving ever since. On Saturday, the man who has anonymously donated hundreds of thousands of dollars in Norfolk and beyond allowed himself to be introduced.
After speaking of his hardships in London, Ontario, as a child, Martin said “I told myself that -- if I were ever in a position to help others -- I would.
“I’ve done well in business and I’ve invested well. And I’ve spent nearly all of it.”
Martin has done well. In collaboration with Wilkinson’s Your Independent Grocer in downtown Delhi, Martin has donated nearly $20,000 annually to the Sharing Pantry food bank for as many years as he can remember.
“Whatever they need, the lady there (Ruth Brown) comes and tells us and I buy it,” Martin said.
Matt Wilkinson, owner of the Main Street grocery store, says there isn’t a word of exaggeration to what Martin says. Wilkinson says the Canada Revenue Agency occasionally inquires about Martin’s charitable claims. Wilkinson tells them they can come down and look at the receipts if they’d like.
“He’s redefined for me what the word `generosity’ means,” Wilkinson said. “I thought I knew what that word meant till I met Bruce. He’s become a good friend. Bruce is from the community and wants to give back to the community.”
Ensuring the Sharing Pantry has what it needs has been a team effort. Martin has the funds while Wilkinson has the supply chain to sell at cost.
“We don’t make money off the food bank,” Wilkinson said. “I don’t want to make money off the food bank. I feel supporting it is my social responsibility for being the only grocer in town. I’m proud to do it.”
Food bank representative Andy Fitch says Delhi is well-armed against hunger thanks to the generous support of people like Martin.
“He’s been very important to the functioning of the food bank, along with everyone else who has donated money and food,” Fitch said. “I don’t know how we’d function without these donations.”
Martin finally came forward during the Norfolk OPP Auxiliary’s annual Christmas food drive this weekend. Saturday’s drop-off was in front of Wilkinson’s store. While there, Martin donated another $1,000 to the Delhi food bank.
The auxiliary and Delhi firefighters collected several carts of non-perishable food items as well as $3,200 in cash donations for the Sharing Pantry.
Other groups Martin has supported over the years include the Delhi Community Health Centre, the recent library expansion in Delhi, Salvation Army community outreach programs in Simcoe, the Delhi Rotary Club, the Juravinski Cancer Centre in Hamilton, Norfolk General Hospital, and the winter lights program at the dam in Quance Park.
The Sharing Pantry food bank is located on Argyle Avenue in Delhi near the intersection of James Street (Highway 3). The food bank serves between 15 and 25 needy families a week. Food parcels are available from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. every Thursday.