It is difficult to catch Connie Johnston (left foreground) at a time when she is not doing something for someone else. In the week that she was to be featured in a Spotlight article, Johnston was busy organizing an event for her friend Cindy Saucier, who was herself being recognized for volunteer activities in the community of Russell. In Russell, community is more than just a word. Tinkess Photo
RUSSELL – One of life’s great mysteries is why some people have a difficult time doing for themselves, much less doing for others, while at the opposite end of the spectrum you have people whose sole purpose for being on this earth is to do, and to help and to organize and simply make things better. Friends or strangers, it doesn’t matter. If it is help that you need, they are there.
Connie Johnston, also known as The Trivia Queen, is one such person. She has found a way to take all that seemingly insignificant information we have floating around in our head and turn it into a very successful fundraising activity.
“We started these like 21 years ago or something, said Johnston. “We’d do them for different causes, and now we’re booked right up until 2025 with one a month. Most of the time we do them for service clubs. We feel it’s an indirect way to help, in particular, the young people in the community. We do them for the Optimist and we do them for the Air Cadets. And next year, we have the Masonic Lodge, we have the Lions, we have Russell Association of Performing Arts. The next one that we’re doing on October the 28th is for Maxville Manor.”
It is worth noting here, that while the Trivia nights act as fundraisers for various groups, they take place at the Russell arena, located at 1084 Concession Street in Russell.
“Although it’s outside of our region, a lot of our older residents have to go to Maxville Manor,” continues Johnston, “because, as I’m sure you know, we don’t have any nursing homes at all. So, either we go to Dundas Manor in Winchester, or they go to Maxville. So, we’re doing one for them on October the 28th. It’s a great way to pull the community together to support whatever cause we have going, and we want these people coming from up north to all over the place. We charge $10 a night and we have auction items and a full bar and food. It’s a great way to get out and have fun, too!
It sounds like it, and by the way, the Maxville Manor trivia night has prizes for the best Halloween costume too.
Trivia nights aren’t necessarily a new thing, but Johnston and her team have taken to an entirely new level. Scrolling through the posts on their Facebook page, the fundraising results are almost unbelievable. $6,500 for the Winchester District Memorial Hospital, $6,500 for the United Church, and how about almost $25,000 raised for the mural to commemorate the 125th anniversary of the Police Village of Russell thanks to a $5,000 donation from the Russell Lions Club and donations from many local merchants and residents. Incredible.
The question was posed to Johnston about why some people are so willing to do so much while others are quite content to do so little? “It’s the country a lot of times,” said Johnston. I was born in Russell, almost 71 years ago, so it’s home to me, and you know, it’s great. Now when my kids were little, I didn’t have the time and working full-time I wasn’t able to do anything like this. So now that I can, it’s great.
It’s obvious that Johnston enjoys sharing the credit freely for the success of Russell Trivia. She does however take a moment to share an occasion she says she was honoured to be a part of.
Recently the local member of Parliament was given a number of King’s Coronation medals to be presented to deserving residents within the riding. Johnston received one for her volunteer activities. “I was pretty proud of that,” said Johnston. “It’ll be something I’ll cherish forever.”
In this growing community that somehow still maintains its small village feel, Johnston seems to understand she is right where she belongs. “I do love Russell. I think it’s unique in the way that we we sort of think of our neighbours all the time if there’s anybody in need. And we’ve often been told that, that, you know, people can be in difficult situations in other towns and people just don’t feel sorry for them. It’s just that they don’t really come to their aid as much as they do around here. If we hear of anybody that needs help in any way… and I certainly couldn’t do any of this without the great team that I’ve got behind me. We’ve got an auctioneer, we’ve got a music man, we’ve got treasurers, we’ve even got young ladies who work in the kitchen with the food and yes, we have a professional photographer. He takes like over 100 photos of each event that we do and post them. It’s a great, great team that I’ve got working with me I couldn’t do without them.
If you’d like to know more about Russell Trivia, you can find them on Facebook (Russell Trivia).
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Terry Tinkess is a professional photographer, educator and journalist. He has been making a living with a camera and keyboard since 1999 and has been featured in such publications as The Ottawa Citizen, Cornwall Standard Freeholder, The Globe and Mail, The Miami Herald, Ottawa Construction News, The Ontario Construction Report, Ontario Home Builder Magazine, Reed Construction Data, Canadian Potato Business and most recently, The Record and Eastern Ontario AgriNews. Terry lives in Ingleside, Ontario with his wife Brenda, Mia the anxious Pittie and cats Wally and Chubbers.