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Helpers: Helping children has driven her volunteer efforts for 60 years

Darlene Sargent has been a member of Royal Purple for her entire adult life and she continues to give back to her community
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Darlene Sargent has been a dedicated member and volunteer with Sudbury Royal Purple since she was 18. The lodge encourages potential members that “If your heart matches ours, join us.”  (Supplied)

Inspired by her late mother, Eileen, Darlene Sargent carries on a family legacy of helping others and building a stronger community and doing so with conviction and compassion.

The youngest of four children, Sargent and her siblings grew up in Sudbury. Their father, Norman, who had been seriously injured in the Second World War, was unable to work and so Eileen became the Sargent family breadwinner. She had a home-party sales career so successful, in fact, it earned her several new cars, courtesy of Tupperware.

“Our mother was a very spirited and caring woman,” said Sargent. “I think she developed her entrepreneurial spirit from her own parents who operated Penny’s Cartage here in Sudbury. They handled sorting and deliveries for Eaton’s, and many of my mom’s relatives worked at the department store, in the mailroom or for my grandad’s trucking business.”

When Sargent left Sudbury Technical School, she launched her career as a hair stylist with Chez Nils (now Nils Hair Centre), where she remained for more than three decades.

Sargent and her first husband, Doug Kent, had two girls. Sadly, he suffered a brain aneurysm and passed away at the young age of 26.

Eldest daughter, Wendy, was employed by CTV Northern Ontario for 10 years. She and her husband, Brian Lampkie, currently reside in Ottawa where Wendy is a human resources manager with the Upper Canadian District School Board. Their two sons, Kent and Randy, are 30 and 27 respectively.

Married to John Behun, Sargent’s youngest daughter, Jody, has operated her own hair and esthetics salon since 1991. Their teenagers, Katie and Amber, are both students at Marymount College.

“Jody also became a hair stylist and we worked together at Chez Nils for a few years. Then, while she was still in her 20s, she had the opportunity to purchase Lords ‘n Ladies and I joined her team.” 

Sargent fully retired from the beauty field in 2003.

Her partner of 30 years was the late Oscar Rheaume. 

“We had so much in common,” she said. “We both loved golf and enjoyed travelling to many parts of Canada, as well as Alaska and, one of our favourite destinations, Hawaii. There’s nothing better than sharing the same interests. I think that’s why we had such a wonderful life together.”

Sargent began volunteering at the tender age of 11, accompanying her mother on hospital visits to bring a little joy to young patients. 

“My mother was a devoted member of the Royal Purple, which was originally the ladies’ auxiliary of the Sudbury Elks of Canada,” Sargent said. “Around Easter, she would dress me up in a bunny costume and I’d carry a basket of treats we would distribute to all the kids in hospital. Those who weren’t allowed to eat candy got a stuffed toy. Everyone got a little something to make them smile.”

“Those hospital visits were the highlight of my childhood, not only because the kids were so excited to see the Easter Bunny, but I experienced first-hand just how much my mother cared about people.”

The Sudbury Royal Purple Lodge 148 was instituted in 1952. 

“My mother joined one year later. The funds members raised supported local causes and local families,” Sargent said. “Sixty-eight years later, the lodge is still going strong. We’re a small but mighty group of 12 volunteers dedicated to the organization’s mandate of helping children and seniors in our community.”

Sargent never forgot those tender moments volunteering with her mother, and she could hardly wait until she reached 18, the age one could enroll as a member of the Royal Purple. 

“I was anxious to be a part of this team of women who made such a profound difference in the lives of others. There was so much goodness and kindness in the ladies. They motivated my lifelong commitment to helping others.”

And so, in 1960, Sargent officially joined the Sudbury Royal Purple. Phyllis Devost and her mother joined at the same time. “We were known as the lodge’s two mother-daughter teams.” Today, Sargent and Devost commemorate 60 years of service. “We’ve always shared the same values and goals, dedicating our efforts to helping local children.”

Sudbury Royal Purple hosts its major annual fundraiser in conjunction with Delta Bingo. Members also sell tickets for the annual Canadian Hard of Hearing Dream Home raffle. 

“We work hard to raise funds that help families whose children need special equipment to improve life.” 

In 2019, the Sudbury Royal Purple Lodge was proud to contribute $10,000 toward Maison McCulloch Hospice.

Sargent leads a busy, fulfilling volunteer life with many organizations. 

She especially enjoys golf and has served as president of the Pinegrove Golf Course ladies’ association for the last 16 years. 

“Volunteering in a sport you love makes it fun to organize events and tourneys. And our club’s ladies’ night is very popular. We host about a hundred golfers each Thursday.” 

Sargent pointed out that golf is an activity where physical distancing is easily achievable.

For the last eight years, Sargent has presided over the social committee at the seniors’ apartment complex where she lives. 

“At our events, residents are encouraged to dress to suit the occasion. A costume can be made from anything you want, even a pair of oven mitts and a funny apron. I think that, ever since I portrayed the Easter Bunny as a child, I’ve loved theme parties. They’re so much fun for everyone.”

Sargent’s inspiration for living life to the fullest and paying goodness forward was her mother. “She was my mentor,” Sargent said. “All her life, my mom gave everything she had to keep our family safe and healthy. She helped others whenever and however she could. I’m so proud to be following in her footsteps and be a dedicated volunteer like she was. We need more people like my mother in this world.”

Darlene Sargent’s Volunteer Words of Wisdom

Volunteering is about giving what you have. Whether it’s simply a smile or offering assistance, you’re spreading happiness and your strength gives strength to others. We all have way too much inside us for just one person, so become a community volunteer and share your talents and your time. So many people who deserve support are waiting for you.

Marlene Holkko Moore is a local communications professional and a regular contributor to Sudbury.com.



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