Washington’s power volunteer fills days helping others

Published 11:17 am Thursday, May 4, 2023

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It was a “complete and total surprise” to Henry Capogna hearing his name called as the recipient of the Meritorious Award given by the Washington-Beaufort County Chamber of Commerce at their annual banquet in January.

To anyone who knows even a little about Capogna, the award was not a surprise, but well earned.

Capogna has volunteered in the community since he and his wife moved to Washington five years ago. He has served as a volunteer, supporter, board member and president of Eagle’s Wings Food Pantry.  He has also been president of the Noon Rotary Club in Washington and assisted with the merger of the Sunrise and Evening Rotary groups to become Washington Rotary. He volunteers at Rotary sponsored events like the blood drive and Smoke on the Water barbecue competition.

He is an active member of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church where he helps organize an annual Toys for Tots drive at the church during Christmas. He also announces baseball games for Washington High School.

Not wanting the spotlight solely on him, Capogna noted there is a group of people like him who spend their time and energy giving back to Washington neighbors. “This community is blessed to have a very, very active group of volunteers that do countless endeavors to enrich the community “

“I’ve lived in several communities, but I’ve never seen one that is so small that has such a big heart,” Capogna continued.

In his retirement, he doesn’t golf, fish, or go boating. Instead, he fills his days doing things for other people, because he enjoys being around people and learning about them.

Growing up in Detroit in the 1950’s and 1960’s, as a kid Capogna was more interested in the information on the back of his baseball cards than the photo on the front. He wanted to know where the player was from, what they liked and what their hobbies were.

When he attended college at Michigan State University, he studied Communications and became a reporter.

“I’ve always invested in people,” Capogna said.

His investment in the Washington community started as soon as he moved to Chocowinity in 2017. In his neighborhood, a group of men called “Blue Hats” invited Capogna to join them in adding siding to the building at Eagle’s Wings Food Pantry. He noticed the attention to detail and exact measurements the men took when cutting pieces.  Though accident prone and less than precise, Capogna joined the men.

Upon arrival, Capogna knew the scope of work was beyond his capabilities; therefore, he walked inside and was introduced to Executive Director Anne Marie Montague.  He mentioned wanting to volunteer.

“Anne Marie did not waste a minute and pulled out a volunteer application and said ‘let’s get going,’” Capogna shared.  Capogna asked Montague what she had planned for the day and she mentioned going to a Rotary meeting to which she invited Capogna.

He was instantly connected with his second volunteer organization. At the persistence of the late Dot Moate, Capogna became the president of the Noon Rotary and served for two years.

“A lot of the things that I’ve gotten involved in are because of people like Anne Marie and Dot Moate,” Capogna said. “This town is blessed to have a lot of vigilant, strong willed, feisty women. They roll up their sleeves and they make it happen.”

Capogna said there is a “litany” of women in Washington who fit the above description.  “I am so impressed with what they do. They have a lot of heart and soul and they are committed to the community.”

Volunteering is not just for people like Capogna, Montague and Moate.

Capogna said it’s important for everyone to volunteer, because it creates social connectivity, which is good for a person’s emotional and mental health.

For example, when Capogna volunteers with Meals on Wheels and delivers food to people it could be one of few moments during the week the recipient interacts with another person face-to-face.

“They need food, but more importantly they need interaction. You knock on their door, it opens and there’s a smile there.”