Ginger Jackson: a dog, a cat and a Big Mac

Being able to call Ginger Jackson a friend, is indeed a privilege, as this wonderful lady is an icon in the world of philanthropy and selflessness. The owner of two extremely successful McDonald franchises, has afforded her an opportunity to give back to our community, tenfold.

For those of you unaware of Ginger's reputation, she is president of the proposed Uxbridge Scugog Animal Shelter, in the midst of being developed and built. The sleepless task keeps her up late at night, and constantly involved in a myriad of challenges, dealing with everything from fundraising to construction. If you discuss her participation in any aspect of this vast undertaking, she will be the first to give credit to someone else. It took a bit of doing for Ginger to open up for this interview, because she never seeks the spotlight.

Born in Walkerton, Ontario, Ginger McCarter, was an only child, and was raised in an environment where working from an early age was a way of life. Her mother, who worked hard in a family run hotel, decided to open a children's wear shop. Ginger worked in the store from the age of 14, and subsidized her income with babysitting throughout her high school years.

"I have had a love for animals since I was a child," Ginger explained, and went on to talk about her first beagle puppy, which came into her life when she was 14. "His name was Bindy," she fondly recalled.

After high school, Ginger left the small town of Walkerton and attended the Owen Sound Regional School of Nursing. Upon graduation she joined North York General Hospital, as a registered nurse. She lived in Don Mills, a major change from her small town way of life.

In the early seventies, Ginger met Sandy Jackson, a teller at a CIBC branch. It was love at first sight and the couple were married in May of 1973. They went on to have 5 children (4 boys and a girl), and Ginger continued her career in nursing until 1995 when she retired.

By now the family had moved to Richmond Hill, and in December of 1995, Ginger and Sandy decide to open a McDonald’s franchise in Uxbridge. It was quite a challenge, and meant a move to Uxbridge for the family. The restaurant brought many long hours, but also an opportunity for the Jackson’s to become involved in the community.

Eight years later, in 2003, Ginger and Sandy decided to open a second McDonald’s in neighbouring Port Perry. They no sooner turned the key, when they were asked to also open a franchise in the Uxbridge Walmart. “It happened within two months of each other,” Ginger explained. “It was the craziest time of our lives.”

After moving to Port Perry and overseeing extremely successful restaurants, Ginger decided to become involved in a cause, which was near and dear to her heart; her love of animals. It started with a simple gesture of donating the proceeds from a coin box at her McDonald’s, to the local animal shelter.

Ginger would personally deliver the coins every week, which gave her an opportunity to meet the people (and see the puppies and kitties). “I woke up one morning, at 3:30, and decided that we needed a new animal shelter,” Ginger explained. “I have no idea where the thought came from, but once I realized the validity of it, I decided it was time to act.”

The next day she contacted Art Mathews, the owner of the Uxbridge Pet Valu at the time, and bounced the idea off him. “I remember Art saying it was a great concept, and we never looked back.”

They floated the idea of finding a new home for stray animals to Township staff, and on the morning of January 19, 2011 the idea was presented to both Uxbridge and Port Perry Councils. Both administrations were in favour of the concept.

Ginger was overwhelmed with the task ahead, but never stopped to analyze any negatives of the project. She plowed forward, setting up an administration. “It was exactly the same as running McDonald’s,” she clarified.

Every six months she made a presentation to both Councils, who gladly authorized a $240,000 allocation (split between construction and operation). The project had taken off.

Liz Williams became the first director, a position which required a great donation of time. Ginger continued to work closely with Liz to keep the project moving forward. The board now consists of numerous professionals, able to guide in legal and financial matters.

Each year Ginger, with the help of many volunteers, produces three events to raise funds: the Mutt Strut, a walk from Port Perry to Epsom, In The Ruff, a golf tournament in aid of the shelter, and the well-attended Give Me Shelter Gala, which is a first class event, held in November of each year.

There have been several other well publicized events, such as the gala attended by Mrs. Harper, Canada’s former Prime Minister’s wife, who is an avid proponent of saving homeless animals. Also Petissimo, an evening of music and entertainment, which is the brainchild of Glen Kowarsky, the founder of Dogs at Camp.

This year, Scott Riley, of the Port Perry Pet Valu is offering an opportunity to have your pet photographed with Santa (call 905.985.3223 for details – the event is scheduled for November 26th).

Last year Ginger took over as President of the project, and oversees every element with great attention to detail. I’m not sure where she finds time, after all she also has 9 (soon to become 10) grandchildren. The new shelter will be located on Lakeridge Road, just North of Durham 21 on seven acres of land, donated by the Township.

Visiting Ginger in her home offers an immediate understanding of her love of animals. Her cats, Max, Molly and Cloe greet you, jumping over Lucy, the two year old beagle.

We are fortunate to have people like Ginger Jackson in our community. Not only does she make a difference, but she does it with passion.

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