KAGAWONG—The word ‘volunteer’ per Cambridge Dictionary’s definition is “a person who does something, especially helping other people, willingly and without being forced or paid to do it.”
Whether it is washing dishes following a community function, taking minutes at a meeting, keeping score at a euchre tournament or planning a picnic for seniors, you will find Phyllis Cacciotti, sleeves rolled up and a warm smile to greet you.
Ms. Cacciotti has been coming to the Island for 25 years, but did not make a permanent move here until 2015 when she and her husband Bob built their home on his family’s property on Lakeshore Road. A neighbour encouraged her to join the Library board because “she knows I love to read.” Three years later, she is a member of the board, taking minutes for their monthly meetings.
Her initiation into the Recreation Committee soon followed. Stuffing Easter eggs, creating centrepieces for the Halloween dance and stringing bird seed balls and fruit for the bird friendly Christmas tree: it’s all part of working as part of a team in accepting and sharing ideas.
Prior to moving to Billings Township, Ms. Cacciotti lived in Sudbury, volunteering with the Warm Hearts Palliative Care end of life fundraising program. One of the first groups she joined after making her home on the Island was the reading group and running the tuck shop at Manitoulin Lodge in Gore Bay.
“I have to connect with people,” she shared, “and I don’t know how to say no,” she joked. The monthly events at the Lodge keep her busy. From musical groups to an international taste testing event, Ms. Cacciotti is giving back. “There is so much joy in being there for the seniors who always have a story to tell. The Lodge is always looking for volunteers,” she added.
“Connecting with people is very important to me,” Ms. Cacciotti shared. “Volunteering teaches compassion and becoming a good listener; do what you have to make it a success and being enthusiastic. Friendships can be formed when sharing a common interest and working together.”
Winters are long and one of the favourite outings for seniors in particular are euchre parties. While some areas on the Island have weekly card games, Kagawong has one tournament per month, hosted by the Cacciottis. They are currently seeking two members of the community to take over the planning and hosting of the monthly card parties.
Ms. Cacciotti loves Kagawong and being part of the community. Volunteering is a “good way to meet people and it is very rewarding to give something back,” she concluded.