By Perry Lefko
Marylou Gollert, a retired Brampton school principal, has come to be known as the Golf Ball Lady in Collingwood.
For the past seven years, the retired principal has been selling used golf balls that she repurposes to raise money for children’s needs at My Friend’s House, a non-profit agency offering support for abused women and children living in the Georgian Triangle of Ontario.
Gollert has collected about $20,000 through her endeavor, which continues to grow yearly. In 2017, she collected $5,000, the most since she began doing this.
Gollert, who worked as the Principal at Grenoble Public School in Brampton, originally began selling balls and donating the money to World Vision. Gollert switched to My Friend’s House two years later after talking to a Midland social worker, whom she was partnered with playing a round of golf at Cranberry Golf Course. Through the social worker, Gollert became aware of the need to financially assist children who were staying at My Friend’s House with their mothers.
“I’ve always been very proud of being a Canadian and how we take care of everybody through health care and so many other things that we do, but there’s a small area that people have missed,” she said. “I just have a feeling of compassion for people, especially children, who suffer emotionally. So many children have advantages that I’d like to help balance the scales for kids. I specialized in my educational career in providing support to help put children on a level playing field by attempting to facilitate the best educational environment possible. When I retired, I facilitated a tutor program for grade ones that grew to 40 volunteers and helped children who were the lowest in their classes acquire the skills to have average to above-average competence before the end of the school year.”
Gollert, who plays four times a week and is a member at Monterra Golf at Blue Mountain Resort, has a home that backs on to the seventh hole at Cranberry Golf Course. She uses an old washer to clean the balls, sometimes as many as 250 per load. She then sorts them out and puts them on display in cartons at the side of her house beside the golf path. She prices the balls depending on the condition and the brand name. The balls are sold on the honour system.
“The amount raised gradually grows not only with the amount of money collected ever year, but the number of people that donate,” she said. “I need between 8,000-10,000 balls every year to make over $4,000.”
She has received 10,000 balls from the groundskeeper at Monterra. OslerBrook Golf and Country Club and Batteau Creek Golf Club have also helped. One neighbor purchased Gollert’s remaining coloured and crystal ladies’ balls at the end of the 2017 season to make up Christmas gift bags for her golfing friends. Another neighbour ordered some orange balls for her 12-year-old grandson as a Christmas gift.
Gollert also sells balls at the Squire John’s Tent Sale on Canada Day weekend.
“This isn’t just me,” she said. “I wouldn’t be able to do it alone. It’s all the people that have recognized it’s a good idea and it makes them feel good. Everybody wins. It helps the kids and it helps the people because they’re contributing…It gives people a purpose as far as golf ball hunting. I’m extremely grateful to neighbours, friends and family that assist extensively by buying, obtaining and selling balls for the project, but the project can always use more help.”
She has never spoken to any of mothers at My Friend’s House, respecting their privacy.
“I like to hear how the shelter has used the money so I can tell people to support the cause,” she said. “Knowing I made something better for someone is what I’m constantly striving to do.”
Gollert hopes to inspire others to do the same in other communities by repurposing golf balls and making people more aware of domestic abuse and the shortfall in funding sources.
If you have golf balls you’d like to give Gollert, you can contact her by emailing her at email@example.com.