Meet Volunteer Extraordinaire Cyril McFate
Can you share some early experiences?
I suppose I could start with my first job. In grade seven, I had the task of firing up the stove in our one-room schoolhouse and received $25. That was for the whole year and that made me aware of the reality of “working for every cent”.
Graduated from High School at age 17 (1958) and joined the RCAF two months later. I retired from the air force 37 years later at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Aerospace Engineering Occupation.
I was then engaged for the next nine years with the political process that led to the birth of the Conservative Party of Canada in 2003. At that point, I was selected as Interim National Director of the new party.
After retirement in 2004, my wife Jackie and I have made Sudbury our home and we are both very proud to be part of this wonderful community.
How did you get started in volunteering?
I first learned about helping others from being helped myself. I was born on a farm in New Brunswick and was brought up by my mother. Father passed when I was three years old. My mother, two brothers and I were provided with some of the basic needs by our neighbours, things like milk and eggs for example from nearby farmers. It was much like a big extended family. Later I found out some of them were actually related to us.
From that experience, I think one gets the attitude: if you have extra stuff or time, why not share with those who need “stuff” and are short on time?
During my time in the Air Force, I was involved with a lot of “secondary duties”. That was the military name for volunteering. Over the years I was involved with youth hockey and curling as a coach; as a president of curling clubs, officers and other ranks clubs; a member and Drum Major of Base Bands, and as a member and team leader of Land Search and Rescue Team.
This seems like a lot of volunteering but for the most part this was just a whole lot of fun, with the obvious exception of the Search and Rescue activity.
What have been some of your experiences as a volunteer?
During my five years with the Land Search and Rescue Team, we had a few serious military accidents that required search and rescue support. However, on the civilian side we were called upon quite often to help locate people lost in the extensive forest areas surrounding our Base location. Thankfully, most of our efforts produced successful results but there were those that had very disturbing outcomes. For me, and all of our team members, being able to rescue people from very difficult and dangerous situations was a reward above imagination. Seeing Mom and Dad holding their child we brought back to them gives an amazing feeling of relief and accomplishment.
As for volunteering post retirement, I have helped a few candidates during elections. Then I met a couple of amazing people from this area who told me about their Keeping Seniors Warm project they engineer every year for those in need of warm clothing.
The program they have in effect not only provides the needed clothing but includes a full day of personal contact with the recipients. That I found amazing and my wife and I have volunteered to help in any way we can.
I put Keeping Seniors Warm as one of the most effective and impactful community help programs. I would like to see programs like this spread across the whole country.
Recently I have been honored by a local organization with the agreement to include my personal views on life in their Magazine for the 50+ group in Northern Ontario.
When I pen these articles, I often think that I am talking to those who already know all the stuff I write about. But then I still feel a need to send them my thoughts in the hope that my views will help them to realize the importance they have in our community and in the lives of those youngsters that are trying to catch up to us.
Do you have any thoughts for us?
Most of the people I know, know me quite well so there is little I can say in regard to the question of what they don’t know. So how about I share what I want them to know instead:
“I want to see your smiles; all of you.”
As to my thoughts for young folks: The most important part in life is learning but keep in mind that there are many sources of learning. Schools, family, friends, workplace etc. But keep in mind – those who listen learn.
Part of the issue we face as older Canadians is our thinking that age means we are in a losing situation or part of our lives. We no longer work is an example that leads to this thought process. I believe that if we look at retirement from our job as the beginning of another phase of life, we are much more likely to advance with a more positive approach and therefore start looking for productive and satisfying things to take a part in.
Most of us have those things we always wanted to do or experience, so perhaps now is the time to investigate the possibilities. In short, we need to keep busy.
By staying more involved in society, we become much more the visible part of society that we truly deserve. This leads naturally to being more visible as a group to all the youngsters and therefore we will likely see more interest and response from them.
Community Leader Gary J. Michalak
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I was born in Timmins but moved to Azilda at the age of 12 and have lived here ever since. I married my wife Gisele in September 1969 and we have two children.
I earned a diploma in leisure studies from Fanshawe College and a diploma in public administration from Laurentian University
I’ve held a variety of positions over the years. I’ve worked at INCO in their geophysical exploration airborne division, in real estate, with the Town of Rayside-Balfour as Commissioner of Parks and Rec, with the Ministry of Culture and Recreation as a recreation consultant and nine years as CAO of the Town of Rayside-Balfour.
I’m currently president of Gary J. Michalak & Associates Inc. and executive director of Café Heritage (formerly Café-musique).
What volunteer experiences have you been most passionate about in your life?
I’ve been a member of the Azilda Lions Club for 49 years, am the founding president and still active with the Chelmsford Valley District Comp. School Alumni Association, am a member of the Chelmsford Legion and have volunteered for 10 years with Café-musique Productions now Café Heritage.
Altruism is my primary motivator in being involved in community development. I consider it payback for the salary received while employed by the community. I’m honouring my Mother who was a cub scout leader and my reward is the smiles on the faces of those we care for and serve.
What would you like people to know about you?
My passion for family, friends and community.
My passion for culture and heritage.
My passion in the belief we are all created equal and share Mother Earth.
My passion for those who raise their hands and take on leadership to serve.
My passion for those who give back to their community.
What would you want people to know about the process of aging?
I have never really taken the time to think about aging. Aging is yet another word for “journey” and my journey has been filled with incredible friendships who have contributed to my personal growth. Every day brings about new and interesting challenges in trying to make a difference in the lives of those who you encounter.
I define youth as someone who is one day younger than I am. We should not be critical of our youth and their lifestyles that may be different from yours. I can clearly remember when I was in my teens that many older adults were critical. When I hear my peers talking negatively about today’s youth, I sort of grin and say ah! not really that bad.
What advice would you share with future generations?
You can move mountains if you surround yourself with those who share the same vison in caring and serving our community.
Of what are you most proud?
I have truly tried to treat every person with dignity and respect. If we all followed the Seven Sacred Teachings of the Grandfather and Grandmother, this world would be incredible.