Charity begins at home

Charity begins at home
The children of Mr Tony Tay and Ms Mary Ho (both seated), including daughter Ann and son Alphonsus (both standing), return home for meals every weekend.

To feed his family, retired businessman Tony Tay has sold all kinds of goods and services, from insurance policies to sewing machines and durians, and run a printing firm.

He is no less committed to feeding the 3,000 needy people served by the Willing Hearts charity he runs, for which he received the President's Award For Volunteerism last month.

Mr Tay, 66, plans to move the charity from its current site in an industrial building in Genting Lane to larger premises in Jalan Ubi, in order to serve 2,000 more meals a day.

The affable man says he spends up to $300 monthly out of his own pocket, for instance, buying appliances such as rice cookers, for the needy whom he meets.

Explaining his motivation as the founder of Willing Hearts, he says: "Everything in life was given to me, why shouldn't I give back much?"

Willing Hearts began in 2003 with a mission to give bread to migrant workers.

In his terrace home in Balestier where he lives with his wife Mary Ho, 66, donated bottles of cooking oil, sacks of rice and cartons of body wash are tucked into odd corners.

Here, his three married children and nine grandchildren gather for Saturday dinners.

Eldest child Alphonsus, 44, a health- care professional, says the home is like a "community centre, with people coming and going".

Ms Ho, who used to run her own logistics company when the children were growing up, recalls that in 2005, her husband also took in homeless people from the downtown Catholic parish where they serve for about six months each time.

Their youngest child, events manager Ann, 38, says she and her brothers were initially worried for their parents' safety.

"I didn't understand the impact he had on people until seven years ago. A friend, who at first didn't know he was my father, said what he did was amazing," says Ann.

Mr Tay's second child, 43-year-old life coach Aloysius, was absent at the interview.

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