GORE BAY – April Torkopoulos has grown up in an environment that advocated for the importance of giving back to her community, a lesson that has remained with her for years.
“My inspiration probably comes from my mom. She’s also very involved with her community and has been on school councils, she gets involved with the church and the town and stuff. I guess I just kind of looked up to her and saw that it was something I was interested in, too,” says April.
April’s involvement began at an early age through the Alinta youth group at her family’s church.
“I think I was 10. We’d go to the nursing home and in the spring we planted flowers for them and went to visit the residents because they liked to interact with youth and see how we were doing,” April says.
The following year, she joined the ‘Toonie Project’ at My Ol’ Blues in Gore Bay with Kathy Antonio. The project gives young girls the opportunity to learn about fashion design, manufacturing, marketing and retail. Although she started as a participant, throughout high school she moved into a mentorship role and meets with the younger girls every week to assist them in their projects. She has also helped with a fashion show at the nursing home.
At Manitoulin Secondary School (MSS), where April is a Grade 12 student, she is an active member of the SHARE (Students Helping All ‘Round Everywhere) and Go Green committees.
“I absolutely love it,” says April. “We do a lot of volunteer work. This past Halloween, we collected canned food items. We got over 1,300 items and donated that to Manitoulin Family Resources.”
Around the end of the month, the club is organizing a spring cleanup and there will be a water walk on May 11 to raise money for families without access to clean drinking water. One group is walking from Misery Bay and another is starting in Wiikwemkoong, with both meeting in the middle at MSS.
“I also helped to organize our own WE Day X at our school. We put it on for Grades 7 and 8 around the Island. We brought in speakers and performers to inspire and empower youth to go into the world and make a change,” says April.
She has spent three years on the MSS student council and been part of musicals, the choir and an art group.
April has had the prestigious honour of being crowned the Providence Bay Fair Ambassador this past year and is currently serving her term.
“I was able to walk all around the fair all weekend. I did face painting and interacting with the kids. That was so much fun; I love working with kids and helping them because they have so much they can learn from you and you can make a really big impact on that,” she says.
The best part of volunteering for April is the satisfied feeling she gets after giving back.
“It’s that feeling of just knowing you’ve helped someone and made a positive impact in your community. You’re helping to make it a sustainable and strong community by taking part in that,” she says. “It’s powerful knowing that you can contribute to making a strong, positive environment for yourself and the people in your community.”