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Helpers: Retirement only meant more time to give, says longtime volunteer

Sonia Del Missier tells writer Marlene Holkko Moore how retiring from her career didn’t mean retiring from volunteering — it meant there was more opportunity to donate
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Sonia Del Missier spent 39 years in post-secondary administration, volunteering the whole time. Retirement gave her more time to give back. (File)

Sonia Del Missier is proof positive that volunteering doesn’t have to begin in retirement.

“Your career can be one of the best launching pads to finding a life’s passion,” this retired college executive said. “Better yet, start volunteering while you’re still in school.”

Del Missier herself was introduced to giving back while she was a student. Although her volunteer service in high school and university focused more on assisting with political campaigns, her community involvement really took shape when she started a career at Cambrian College in 1978.

Cambrian’s then-president, the late Dr. Glenn Crombie, believed strongly that the college and its staff must always be community-minded. That personal mandate became a powerful legacy that has been carried forward by all subsequent senior management, and it’s a mandate Del Missier took to heart.

“Opportunities to partner with businesses, and local and international communities helped grow Cambrian and enhance our community as a whole,” Del Missier said. “They are mutually beneficial activities that developed from our ongoing dedication to service.”

One of the initiatives started at the college during Del Missier’s tenure was Service Learning, which “provides students with the opportunity to practise their skills by working on a community project.” 

For example, a number of years ago Cambrian’s welding class helped build the platform for the look-out tower at Rotary Park on Beatrice Crescent in New Sudbury. Visitors to the trails can now take in spectacular views of the ski hill and nature’s beauty from that structure. This kind of hands-on experience benefits the students who have not only accomplished a goal on their path to a career, but they have also contributed tangibly to their community.

“These young people will carry this positive connection throughout the rest of their lives.”

When Del Missier retired from Cambrian in 2017 after 39 years, her volunteer career wasn’t impacted in the slightest. She continued serving on Laurentian University’s board of governors (currently serving as vice-chair), and since then she has joined the Cambrian College board of governors. A proud Rotarian, she also serves as chair of International Service with the Rotary Club of Sudbury Sunrisers and participates on many initiatives, such as the Salvation Army Kettle Drive and the Nutrition for the Mission initiative.

Del Missier’s longest-standing volunteer commitment has been to the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) Sudbury and District. She was invited to join their board of directors in the late 1980s. At that time, the board was a more formal entity, focusing mainly on leadership. 

Over the years, Del Missier has held several prominent positions at the local, regional and provincial levels. The board eventually transitioned to an advisory committee and, as such, committee members take on a more hands-on role: Del Missier enjoys selling pins during Daffodil Month, works as an outreach volunteer, gives inspirational presentations to the public and helps build awareness in government officials about CCS priorities.

Her biggest passion, however, is the annual CCS Relay for Life, an event she has been involved with since its inception 20 years ago.

“I cannot even imagine not being involved,” she said. “It really does bring together the entire community, whether you’re a cancer survivor, a loved one, a volunteer or a sponsor. Relay for Life touches so many people in our region.”

Del Missier is deeply heartened by the luminary ceremony and survivors’ walk held at each Relay for Life. Every year, it hits home how cancer knows no boundaries, striking young and old alike. She is also immensely inspired, knowing that people are giving their time and talents to make a difference. 

“It’s volunteers who make organizations like the Canadian Cancer Society tick,” says Del Missier. “Their dedication helps build awareness about life-saving research and raises funds to support programs for cancer patients and their families.”

Volunteer Words of Wisdom

Del Missier’s words of wisdom are proof positive that volunteering is an important part of everyone’s life: 

“Don’t wait until you retire to get involved in the community. Find out what you are passionate about while you’re still working and the transition from retirement to volunteering will be a seamless one.”

She also believes in the importance of paying it forward. “We get involved in the hopes that those we impact will also carry it forward in their own efforts to give back and make a positive difference.”

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

Helpers articles share stories related to volunteerism in Greater Sudbury. This section is made possible by our Community Leaders Program.



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