As a proud Finnish Canadian, Liisa Kinos has a natural passion to preserve her heritage and family traditions.
Born in Finland, she immigrated to Canada with her parents and younger brother in 1958. Like so many Finns of that era, the Kamarainen family settled here in Sudbury.
Liisa married Erkki Kinos 25 years ago. Their blended family includes Erik, Mika, Lenita and grandson Tyson, who all live in Greater Sudbury.
Erkki retired from Inco 21 years ago. He is a well-known concert soloist and first tenor with the Sudbury Finnish Male Choir, who has toured extensively across North America and Finland. Following a brief hiatus, Erkki recently returned to performing. Next spring, the choir celebrates its milestone 60th anniversary.
Liisa Kinos retired five years ago after a lengthy career as a travel agent with Ritari Travel and Worldwide Travel One, as well as having worked in management at Finlandia Village.
She credits her first employer, the late Arne Ritari, with introducing her to volunteering.
“Arne always encouraged his staff to give back in some way,” she said. During her tenure with the Ritari group, Kinos was area director for the Canadian Institute for Travel Counsellors, “… a great opportunity through volunteerism to enhance my professional development in the travel industry.”
From there, Kinos joined the Sudbury Finnish Rest Home Society as an elected volunteer board member. That position led to a full-time job with the organization, launching and leading their inaugural volunteer/fundraising area. She remained with Finlandia for four years.
Today, Liisa and Erkki own a town home at Finlandia Village and they enjoy volunteering there together. The couple operates the ladies auxiliary thrift store, with all proceeds going to the Ladies of the Finnish Rest Home Society.
“About 400 people reside independently or in assisted living at Finlandia,” said Kinos. “The thrift store is a godsend to those who can’t easily go out shopping. It certainly puts a smile on their faces.”
“Working with the elderly, you come to realize just how very grateful they are for everything you do for them,” she said. “In some cases, they may have lost their spouse, or their children live far away, and so social activities are very important to them.”
To Kinos, it’s equally important to mentor the next generation. She tirelessly recruits volunteers for on-site activities like the monthly baking of pulla for the residents. “Pulla (a traditional braided coffee bread) is an integral part of the Finnish lifestyle and a chance to go back to one’s Finnish roots,” she said.
Because many of the residents currently doing the baking are well into their 80s or have health issues, Kinos has been reaching outside of the organization to young people who want a chance to learn old-country baking techniques. “It’s working out well, and because experience isn’t necessary, this an opportunity to learn the art of Finnish baking and how to keep that tradition alive,” she said.
In retirement, Kinos remains an active member of various other groups, including the Sudbury Finn Fest organizing committee. Finn Fest 2020 takes place at Collège Boréal from June 19-21, with workshops, a marketplace, and local and international entertainment.
“It will be a particularly special event, because our community and out-of-town visitors will come together to celebrate the festival’s 80th anniversary,” she said.
Kinos’ words of wisdom: “For young people especially, volunteering opens their eyes to the future, whether it’s making life choices or deciding on a career path. Many youth struggle to determine what they’ll do with their lives. Volunteering can help by providing hands-on experience and a chance to discover their life’s passion, ambition and goals.”
“There are so many benefits to volunteering. Your mind is active and you’re physically active. Most of all, there’s a heartwarming feeling knowing that you’re helping someone add a little spice to their life.
“Volunteering is a window to the world.”
Marlene Holkko Moore is a local communications professional and occasional contributor to Sudbury.com.