Susan & Sheila Chambers 2020 Citizens of the Year


Two sisters who opened their Port Dover daycare business in 1985 and have dedicated decades to the Girl Guiding movement in this community have been selected as Port Dover Citizens of the Year 2020.
Shelia Chambers and Susan Chambers – who, they say, people often simply call “the Chambers’ girls” – have become synonymous with Guiding in Port Dover. Both were Girl Guides in Essex as children and it has become a lifelong passion after Sheila answered the call to become a Brown Owl in the local Guiding movement in 1990.

Above: Sheila Chambers, left, and Susan Chambers are Port Dover’s Citizens of the Year. They are surrounded by photos of some of the children they have cared for over the decades.

Both Susan and Sheila have served as District Commissioners and Susan advanced to be a Division Commissioner and to the broader Community Guider covering Norfolk County. Both sisters jokingly say they bleed blue blood “Girl Guide blue” adding that Guiding “is in our bones!”
They noted “Port Dover is such a great Guiding community with leaders who have been involved for years,” commenting, “it really is a sisterhood.”
Their childhood involvement in the Girl Guide movement under the leadership of Ruth Wass was so enjoyable it became a lifelong passion.
“It was those leaders who gave us such a fabulous experience that shaped us,” they said, often finishing each others’ thoughts. Both Susan and Sheila hope they are influencing Port Dover area girls to have an appreciation of this community.
The Port Dover Guiding movement maintains units for all levels of Guiding from Sparks to the senior level Rangers. That is something fewer communities can still claim as more “multi-branch” units develop with fewer Guides or fewer leaders.
Susan and Sheila both agree that they still “have lots of passion” for Guiding.
Both women put importance on their work at St. Paul’s Anglican Church. Soon after moving here, they became involved in the Sunday School which in 1985 had an enrolment of 70 children.
Today, Sheila is still involved each week in St. Paul’s “Pray and Play” program for pre-school age children. Assisted by the rector’s wife, Marianne Bouwmeester, each Sunday they develop a program for children which is held during the service.
Susan is the co-chair of the weekly Community Coffee Break program on Mondays at St. Paul’s Community Hall. Welcoming everyone to stop in for free coffee, fresh-baked treats and a chat, the group attracts about 15 people between 10:30 and 12:30.
In 1985, as young women in their mid-20s, and with Susan’s business degree and Sheila’s degree in Early Childhood Education, they decided to open a licensed daycare centre in Port Dover. Thirty-five years later, they continue to run a home daycare.
They noted “children’s behaviour really hasn’t changed” noting that children have always been very observant of their surroundings.
But there are the little things they have noticed. Years ago, children would sit down when using a play telephone but today they all walk around with the play phone to their ear. As well, imaginary groceries used to be sold pushing buttons on a play cash register but today the children simply pretend to scan everything.
Susan and Sheila now have seen at least 12 children of children in their daycare. Some affectionately call them “Daycare grandmas” – a term they now embrace.
The two sisters are practically inseparable. They do most things together.
Their birthdays are both on August 25 just one year apart. They have lived together for all but two years of their life. In her first year, Susan was without her sister … and years later they were apart again for one year when Susan went off to college a year before Sheila enrolled.
They reported, “we do things together and have fun doing things together.”
Always looking out for each other, Sheila said “I am so happy Susan was chosen and I am blown away that I can stand beside her.”
Susan observed, “I am so glad we are doing this together,” adding, “that’s how we roll, together!”
With their parents and other family members in town who have helped them succeed over the decades, “life fell into place here,” they said. “This is our life and we can’t imagine being anywhere else.”
On Monday, April 6, Susan Chambers and Sheila Chambers will be honoured as Port Dover’s 2020 Citizens of the Year at a reception and dinner in their honour at the Erie Beach Hotel. Tickets are available at the Port Dover Board of Trade office on Market Street West.

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