There are approximately 120 volunteers working at the Sanibel Historical Village, although that number does go down this time of year. Volunteers’ duties run the gamut all year, from greeting guests at the door, to working in the museum store, to giving tours, and to farming the pioneer garden.
“Particularly now, in the off-season, we’d like to both recognize our volunteers’ contributions and share with the community what it means to be part of the Historical Village family,” said Executive Director Emilie Alfino. “Volunteering at the village is a great opportunity to be part of a committed, dedicated – and fun – group.”
Kathy Choquette started volunteering at the village this year. She was born in Astoria, N.Y., and came to Florida in 1993 after spending nine years living and working in New Orleans. She is currently a Florida resident living in Fort Myers. Choquette started to visit Sanibel in 1983 for a long weekend vacation when her very close friends had a timeshare condo here. From then on, she came more frequently to visit her parents, who had retired on Sanibel as full-time residents.
Choquette’s 25-year career was in human resources specializing in training, recruiting, community relations, and administration. Upon moving to Florida, she changed her career to conference planning for 10 more years at a local resort before retiring.
Choquette fell in love with the island by just crossing the causeway on her first visit in 1983, as so many people did. “Walking on the fantastic beaches, the diverse restaurants and the quaint shops are all things that are not available on the mainland,” she said. “What’s not to love?”
Presently, Choquette is working at the museum store in the Rutland House, where she enjoys greeting and sharing Sanibel history with the visitors. She also likes attending the volunteer lectures to meet original island residents and listen to their stories, which she then passes along to the visitors.
“My favorite house is the Rutland House, but that could always change in the future. Each home has stories to be told,” Choquette said.
Why does she choose to volunteer at the village? “A friend who works on the island recommended that I volunteer at the village because I enjoy meeting and greeting people,” Choquette explained.
Lynne Campean joined the village family in 2010. She and her husband George are from Olmsted Falls, Ohio, and they have been full-time Sanibel residents for the last 14 years.
Prior to coming to Sanibel, Campean was an entrepreneur. She first owned a gift shop and then spent 32 years owning an insurance agency that specialized in commercial insurance. Earlier, she taught school in the United States and in Germany for the Army. Directly after college, she was a claims adjuster for Liberty Mutual Insurance.
Campean currently docents in the museum store, but her favorite thing to do is to act as a docent for school children.
Campean and her husband love boating. For seven years, they lived summers on their boat in Canadian and U.S. waters. They sold their cabin cruiser after 22 years of family fun. “Now we have several new joys. One is our grandchildren, who stay with us for a month in July, and the other is cruising on a bit larger vessel,” Campean said.
Morning Glories is Campean’s favorite building in the village. “First, because I could live there, and second because it represents the ingenuity of the working folks on Sanibel,” she explained.
Considering that most people in 1926 had at most an eighth-grade education, Campean continued, it is amazing that they were able to put together a house. “I can’t imagine the dedication and brilliance of these people – especially never having worked with or lived with electricity in their own lives.” Most people today, Campean added, haven’t even been able to assemble a Christmas toy.
Why does Campean choose to volunteer at the village? “I only do fun things now! It is lots of fun meeting people from all over the United States and Europe. I also love being ‘on stage. That’s hard to admit, but the applause is great,” Campean said.