BY JANA NIEMI-LAHNALAMPI
If the world was a perfect place, when you looked up inspiration in the dictionary, you would find her name under the definition. Flora Wilson Chartrand has worked tirelessly in a variety of organizations within our community: The Royal Canadian Legion, Levack Public School Parents’ Association, Onaping Falls Curling Club, Falls Food, Levack Public School Breakfast Club, Community Christmas Spirit, Hamper Committee, Spring Bay Club Cottagers’ Association.
Flora has held 11 positions within our local Legion branch and in the larger Legion organization. She started at the local branch level as Membership Chairman, moving on to become the Poppy Chairman, among other positions. As her involvement in the organization grew, so did her understanding of the vital work of the Legion.
“It is not just a bar. Legions are here to serve and help our veterans. Monies raised the local Poppy Campaign can be donated to hospitals for medical equipment or help veterans in need. Literally, all monies raised go back to the veterans in some shape or form.”
Not only does the Legion help veterans, but other community groups from children’s hockey teams to Meals on Wheels benefit from the volunteers at the Legion.
Presently, Flora is serving as Zone H3 commander. This means she supervises 12 Legions from Parry Sound to Manitoulin Island. Her service to veterans extends beyond her Legion work. Flora also visits war veterans through a program called Outreach Visitation Initiative. She has been a part of this program for eight years, visiting veterans in nursing homes to see how things are going and offer help to make sure their needs are being met.
Flora began volunteering at Levack Public School in 1990 when her boys started school there. Her first husband passed away when her boys were under the age of two, she wanted something to do and volunteering gave her the flexibility she needed. She started volunteering as a member of the Parents’ Association. She served as president of the association for five years. Through their fundraising endeavors, education in our area was enriched with trips, bussing and teacher supplies.
A highlight of her time at Levack Public School was fundraising $10, 000 for playground equipment, which moved with the students to the new location at the high school. She has returned to volunteering at the public school, this time in the capacity as breakfast club volunteer. Here she is involved in providing the young of our community with a nutritious start to their day.
Flora’s concern with the well being of community members extends beyond those at the public school. She is involved with numerous groups who provide food for those in need within our community. In 2015, the Community Christmas Spirit was formed. The group’s main goal was to provide Christmas Hampers and Christmas gifts to needy families of Onaping Falls and Cartier. The idea was to bring together the communities’ service clubs and churches to organize their efforts to help our communities at Christmas. She has been a member of this group since its inception.
Flora is also active year-round in our Falls Food organization. The group collects and manages the local food donations, operating out of the Onaping Community Center. Presently, 130 people each month walk through the Falls Food doors. Of those, 35 are children. The need in our community is great, it is comforting to know, when you donate to Falls Food, 100% stays in our community. Flora is also involved with our local Hamper Committee, this group buys and delivers groceries to those in need.
Flora is the daughter of Lawrence and Ruby Wilson. Her Dad was with the North Nova Scotia Highlanders and served in the Second World War from 1939 to 1945. He returned home and found work with Falconbridge Nickel Mines. Ruby was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Her travels led her to Canada when she was 19 and later to work for Crawley & McCracken.
Flora has two sons, Morgan and Garrett. In her spare time, Flora loves spending time with their children: Liam, Kahlan and Brayden. Today, she is married to Andy Chartrand. They continue to enjoy time at the cottage and spending time with family.
I asked Flora what inspired her to be so generous and giving of her time and talents.
“I think it’s because with volunteering you want to do it to help. I get a feeling of accomplishment when the project is completed. When I’m with a group of people I like to say many hands make lighter work. I don’t know what or who inspires me, it’s just a great feeling when you see that what you have done can make things easier for others.”
I hope we all get a little inspired to reach out and help, we all have something to offer. We don’t have to be as prolific as Flora, but we all certainly have it in us to make a difference in someone’s life or in the life of our community.