Morgan, Helen (Moore)
(1909 - )
Helen Moore was only two years old when her mother died in 1911. In 1914 her family travelled from the United States to Alberta on the Settlers Train. They took up residence in a house west of Olds then in 1916 moved to a larger house between Olds and Sundre. The journey between the two communities took three days at that time and, through the hospitable nature of Helen's father, the Moore home soon became a stop off point for many a weary traveller. Helen believes her father's example of kindness and generosity toward his fellow man provided the background for her own philosophy in life, which is one of compassion and love based on some deeply spiritual values.
After completing grade school Helen studied music. This involved laborious trips through summer mud and winter snow with horse and wagon. The fact that poor conditions did not deter her from pursuing her passion for music is testimony to her strength of character. A virtue which has stayed with her throughout her life.
In 1933, Helen married Trevor Morgan and in 1942 they moved to Sundre. At that time, Helen estimates there were 50 people living in Sundre and the first public school had just opened. There was no welfare system then and people down on their luck would often take shelter in a little shack which serviced an outdoor skating arena. Helen's compassion was stirred and she began to collect items of clothing and other necessities for anyone in need.
In 1948, Helen, Trevor and family moved into the house the couple occupied for the rest of their lives. For Helen, there was a real benefit—this house had a basement and she needed the extra space for the growing stash of donated clothes she had accumulated. Still, it wasn't long before even the new basement was full. A casual remark about the dilemma by Helen to some ladies at a Town Betterment meeting in Olds brought about a decision by Helen to open a Thrift Shop in Sundre.
It was a long, hard road and one that, at times, threatened to get the better of this very determined lady. Opposition came from many fronts and despite a few loyal friends, including Sundre resident Russ Matwychuk, help was, at first, hard to find. The cost of the building, it's renovation and servicing, was far more than Helen could afford and, had it not been for a loan from a local hospital committee, the project might have died. Helen persevered and eventually the support came and a strong committee was formed.
The Sundre Thrift Shop has been in operation for twenty three years. Helen looked after it for seventeen of those years. She has fond memories of the gratitude of many of the people who made use of the facility and is proud that the shop has raised tens of thousands of dollars for the Hospital Auxiliary over it's history.
In the 1970s, Helen was asked to be Welcome Wagon Hostess for the town and surrounding community. She soon set to work visiting newcomers to the area where she learned of people who were lonely, sick and unhappy. The love she feels for people came through and she offered what assistance she was able. Many individuals over the years have led happier lives because Helen took them under her wing for a while.
Also during the 1970s, Helen began sponsoring families from Vietnam. It was a wonderful experience for her. She and Trevor provided shelter and employment for the newcomers and have stayed in touch with many of the young families as they have grown and made their way in life. There are four strong families today who got their start through Helen and her family.
The Sundre Christian Women's Club has been providing fellowship to it's many supporters for fourteen years. It is one of the most successful of the programs in the province. It was another of those projects people said couldn't be done and for which there was initially little support. But that didn't stop Helen. She made hundreds of phone calls and it wasn't long before another of her dreams became a reality. She is grateful for the help given her by Mrs. Cheesmur and Mrs. Cunningham throughout the difficult early days of the project.
Helen has always been very involved with her church. Especially with the Sunday school and the vacation Bible school.
She also worked on an Indian reserve west of Nordegg which she says was very gratifying and many of the people she met there remain her friends.
She was involved with the Red Cross, canvassing and providing disaster assistance to families hit by fire or other tragedy, for twenty six years.
Until she was seventy-six years old she sang and played piano at weddings and funerals. Unfortunately, she is no longer able to sing because of the effects of medications she must take but she is not down of heart. "I can still sing inside," she says.
You'd think after raising four children, supporting a businessman husband and putting so much effort into improving the community, that Helen would be ready to take life a little easier. In some ways she does. Failing eyesight and hearing have forced her to curtail her involvement in most of the organizations she was such a big part of. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome often lays her low and at those times she puts what little energy she has into praying for the world and reaching out to individuals who are lonely, sad or sick. She feels it is better to focus on the outside than the inside and credits this belief for her optimistic nature. It is that optimistic nature and that enduring strength of character which enables Helen to continue planning for the future and putting those plans into action.
The Hiding Place Tea Room and Bookshop is another dream Helen made come true. Now in it's second year of operation it is already a place beloved by many for it's sense of peace and elegance, which is exactly the atmosphere Helen intended it to portray.
Helen Morgan has achieved a lot over her lifetime and she's not done yet. Her most recent ambition is to open a recording studio. She loves her community and stays young at heart by continuing to be involved on whatever level she is able.
She sums up her feelings about the human state in these simple words. "Love is the key to the whole thing. It isn't any great plan. You just go where life sends you. If there isn't love there is no point in anything."