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The driving force behind Connaught's revitalization

'Volunteerism is a part of me…it gives meaning to my life,' says Linda Lefort

Volunteering helps keep Linda Lefort going.

Living with a long-term disability, she wants to involve herself in her community and is determined to be productive and fulfilling. She decided to focus on her first labour of love — volunteering.

“Volunteerism is a part of me…it gives meaning to my life. I really love my community, I do this because I care,” Lefort told TimminsToday.

It was her mother-in-law — Margaret Lefort — that got her involved with volunteering. It started in a church basement. Without Margaret's influence, Linda says she may never have become a volunteer.

Over a decade ago she got involved with the Connaught Community Centre, she's been the president of the board for about eight years.

 “I’d never thought I’d be a president, but I have seen the need in the community, that’s why I decided to go for it,” she said.

Lefort said ever since she started being fully involved with the community centre by helping other people, she was also helping her own mental health. After leaving her job, she was depressed, but volunteering helped keep her afloat.

“I’m broken, but volunteering makes me well, it makes me well mentally well, and it's good for me. Sometimes I get a little stressed but I work around it — I breathe,” she said, adding that what she does helps her mental health.

Lefort also felt fortunate because her husband and her daughter saw how volunteering changed her life. Both then got encouraged to volunteer and applied as the centre’s bar manager and treasurer, respectively.

Lefort is a very resourceful person who always sees the things she can do to improve Connaught’s way of life and she always knows which resources she should tap into and who to ask for help from to finish a certain project.

“I’m good at getting things for our club, I think. I deal with people, and they see me as I am. I just want our community to get better, the same as other people,” she added.

As part of the organization, she helped renovate the children’s playground after raising funds of $40,000 in five years, which paid for new swings, new slides, and an area where children can climb or crawl through.

The group also built a pavilion with picnic tables, so families and friends can gather together around the community centre.

Before the pandemic, the centre has also been very active in helping its fellow volunteers by donating to organizations like Project Love, the food bank, and The Yo Mobile.

“We (also) donate to a lot of different causes. Usually, it is about $500 that we donate,” Lefort said.

However, the centre has temporarily stopped donating to other charities until they raise funds to finance its next project: building a sports complex for the community.

The sports complex, she said, will be a year-round recreational park for all ages, where residents can play soccer, basketball, volleyball, tennis, badminton, pickleball, and even skating during the winter.

Lefort said that there is a need for the younger generation to go outside, be active, and see the beauty of volunteering.

“We need the community again to know each other. Right now, neighbours don’t know each other, especially with COVID-19, people stopped going out,” Lefort said.

When asked what keeps her going, Lefort said that seeing the end result of all the projects the centre is involved in is her greatest reward. Another huge influence is her mother, who was an active, determined person her entire life, regardless of the setbacks she encountered. Lefort says she will write a book about her mother someday.

She feels proud when she sees children or families come together using the facility and having fun with the playground, the pavilion, and the picnic table.

“When the sports court is done, my reward will be seeing the people there using it and people loving it, and that’s what keeps me going,” she said.

Aside from asking donations, the community centre also does fundraising events such as Mother’s and Father’s Day breakfast events and a local darts league and tournaments.

This story has been updated from an earlier version.