Volunteering just an everyday thing for Kagawong resident Diane Larocque

KAGAWONG—Diane Larocque has only lived in Kagawong full-time for the past seven years but has made a big impact. When asked to recommend a volunteer, several councillors and residents of Billings Township noted that Ms. Larocque was top of mind.

“My gosh, she’s out there in the cold weather running Christmas lights. She was there the other day. The deer got in the maze again and she was there helping me tie up the gate again to hopefully try to protect the trees,” said Councillor Sharon Alkenbrack. “She is awesome. She sits on Billings Economic Development Committee (EDC) and sits on the (Old Mill Heritage Centre) museum committee and she works with the church as well.”

Ms. Larocque was surprised. “I don’t know why anyone would suggest me as a volunteer. I don’t do anything special. It’s just an everyday thing,” she said.

“I work well with Sharon Alkenbrack (on the EDC) and have helped with Christmas in Kagawong for years. We are taking that on again this year. I also help with decorating the township if needed. If anyone needs any help, I try to help,” added Ms. Larocque.

Regarding the cedar maze, she pointed out that sometimes the door gets opened and it’s not always closed when people leave. “I go by once in a while to check. We want to keep the deer out. Some of the trees there are toast now.”

The maze was closed for a full year about three years ago because the deer had gotten into it and caused a great deal of damage. “People who visited were disappointed they couldn’t go in the maze but there was nothing we could do,” she said. “We try to keep it going but the deer are always one step ahead of us.”

In addition to sitting on the EDC for Billings, she is also on the museum committee. “I just started on the museum committee last year and it wasn’t a full year because of COVID,” she said. At the museum she helps curator Rick Nelson with exhibits, for example, including last year’s hit exhibit on the Empress of Ireland.

“Diane is a multitasker,” Mr. Nelson shared. “She joined the museum committee as a volunteer about two years ago and we can always depend on her to roll up her sleeves to pitch in. She’s also a valuable link to other organizations through her volunteerism with them as well.”

One of those other organizations is her church, St. John’s Anglican Church in Kagawong. “I do outreach in the wintertime, and volunteer at barbecues and yard sales.”

She has been helping out for the past seven years, when she moved to Kagawong from Lively. “Since we (Ms. Larocque and her husband) have been living here full time, I’ve been involved in the community.” Her husband is a Haweater originally from Kagawong. The couple had been visiting for 30 years on and off.

“I wanted to help the community be a better place to live. Sometimes it’s hard to get volunteers for events and things but it’s great when they do show up. It’s very rewarding (helping out).”

Ms. Larocque has worked at many odd jobs over the years, mostly in retail. She left her last job when her husband got sick and they moved here. In her spare time she likes knitting and playing on the computer. “Knitting is my passion, though,” she said. Recently she has been doing some arts with Sharon Alkenbrack. “It keeps me busy.” She doesn’t say volunteering is a passion, “but it does make me feel good.”

She is one of the Artisans by the Bay co-operative, located at the Aus Hunt Marina in Kagawong. She sells knitted items and Norwex products. The shop will be opening again this year, hopefully in May, Ms. Larocque said.

“I try to do what I can,” she continued. “Sometimes I feel guilty if I can’t’ help, but other stuff sometimes has to come first.” It’s been rough the last two years with COVID, her husband’s appointments and a sick mother, who sadly passed away in February of this year.

“So my plate’s a little bit smaller now,” she said. “I just go one day at a time. If it gets done today, that’s great but if it doesn’t, that’s okay. I have a lot of friends that I enjoy. At the end of the day, I just feel relieved and satisfied.”