Nfld. & Labrador

C.B.S. woman donates 500 Barbies, antiques to struggling Royal Canadian Legion

Madonna Porter donated 500 Barbie dolls, countless tea pots, china, cameras and other collectibles to the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 1 on Saturday. 

Collection estimated to be worth $250K, says Madonna Porter

Madonna Porter, 70, displays her collectibles at her Conception Bay South home on Saturday. (Heather Gillis/CBC)

There's a trove of antiques and collectibles in an unassuming building at the back of Madonna Porter's Conception Bay South home. 

The treasures in her personal museum include 500 Barbie dolls, countless tea pots, china plates, cameras and other collectibles. 

There's an antique Zenith floor model radio hidden behind milk crates of books, and even a picture of Queen Elizabeth during her 1978 visit to the province, sitting with then St. John's Mayor Dorothy Wyatt.

On Saturday, she donated all of it to the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 1.

"I had a lot of happy days in my life, but I can say this is the happiest," said Porter, who started collecting about 15 years ago.

Porter has been collecting for about 15 years. On Saturday, she donated 500 Barbie dolls, tea pots, and other items to the Royal Canadian Legion. (Heather Gillis/CBC)

Porter, 70, said she started collecting to help cancer survivors, because her daughter died of cancer at age 43.

But now she's getting older, and said she's starting to get sick herself. The collection is too much for her to move alone, and she doesn't know how to use a computer to sell her valuables online.

So she decided to donate her collection.

She said heard on the news that Royal Canadian Legion branches in the province were struggling to keep their doors open, so she called Branch 1 in St. John's.

"And I said, 'Oh my God, he probably won't take me seriously. Who got 500 Barbie dolls?'" said Porter.

Porter has a photo of Queen Elizabeth II during her visit to the province in 1978. (Heather Gillis/CBC)

Executives from the legion's branch visited Porter the next day. 

"I don't think they knew what to say," she said, adding she loves to see the expression on people's faces when they first see her collection.

Porter said an antique dealer estimates her collection is worth about $250,000.

People have approached Porter in the past about buying some of her items, but she wasn't ready to sell. 

"I wouldn't give you the hair off a Barbie doll over there, right?" laughed Porter.

A vintage floor model radio is hidden behind milk crates full of books in a shed on Porter's property. (Heather Gillis/CBC)

Greg Grenning, president of Branch 1, says the donation will be a big help to the legion.

"We're just struggling right now to keep our doors open," he said.

Grenning said the legion relies on gatherings like weddings, dances and other social events to make money, which are limited now because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"This gesture has been fantastic, and whatever money we can raise will go toward our operating," he said.

Grenning said they will also start an annual scholarship or bursary honouring Porter and her daughter.

But for now, legion members will spend their time carefully packing Porter's collection into boxes, and numbering and itemizing each piece.

Grenning said they will auction items on sites like eBay.

A volunteer with the Royal Canadian Legion takes away a box of collectibles donated by Porter. They will auction valuables on websites like eBay. (Heather Gillis/CBC)

"There's a lot of collectors out there who would like to have some of this stuff," said Grenning.

"Whether we get $10,000 or we get $100,000, it's all it's something we don't have right now.… Whatever money we do get, it's so much appreciated, and [we] can't thank her enough for what she's doing."

While Porter finds it stressful to give away her collection, she said it was meant to be.

"I prayed to God to bring someone to me so it could make my dream come true."

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