April 18 to 24 is National Volunteer Week! It is a time to recognize the many generous acts of kindness from our tireless supporters, who donate their time and energy to help us deliver the exceptional experiences that National Arts Centre patrons have come to know.
This year, the theme for National Volunteer Week is “The Value of One, the Power of Many.” At a time of great uncertainty, where we are unable to gather in person, we spoke with two exceptional volunteers who have met the challenges of our new reality with dedication, compassion, and kindness.
For Linda Wood, a long-time volunteer, and a staunch lover of English Theatre, the decision to invest her time and energy by continuing to volunteer at the NAC, during the global pandemic was an easy one.
Linda has a 20-year history of volunteering with the NAC, through the Friends of English Theatre. “I started out supporting some modest fundraising activities and collaborating to find a way to help grow the audience for English Theatre. I have helped out in a number of ways, from supporting theatre productions, helping to promote English Theatre subscriptions, and welcoming people for the Family Day events. I also started volunteering in the donor’s office, primarily working in the Ruddy Lounge as a host and bartender,” she said.
When the Covid-19 pandemic took over, shuttering the building and cancelling in person performances, Linda assumed there would no longer be any volunteer roles available until the NAC reopened. Yet, as restrictions eased in the summer months, she was able to support in person initiatives like the Chef’s Table concert series presented by Ontario Festival of Small Halls in partnership with the NAC's 1 Elgin. She helped with wayfinding, directing people to the restaurant, and helping them locate the washrooms.
“It was just such a treat to see people outside enjoying themselves again. The concert was set-up as a barge on the other side of the canal (opposite 1 Elgin) and it was truly wonderful. It was a great benefit of volunteering for this event, that I got to enjoy the live music. It really was a lovely set up,” she said.
Marcia Armstrong, began volunteering at the NAC in 2017, when the new building renovations were unveiled. As an English Theatre subscriber, Marcia had always thought it would be fun to volunteer at the NAC. Her first task was to inform visitors about Cloud by Canadian artists Caitlind r.c. Brown and Wayne Garrett, a large-scale interactive work sculpted from 6,000 everyday domestic light bulbs, that was located at the Canal Lobby.
“It was a very broadening experience. I’m a big believer in lifelong learning. Volunteering is a great opportunity as an extrovert, because when you volunteer, you have the chance to meet so many different people. That made things fun for me, because I enjoy meeting new people, and sharing information with them, which helps them enjoy their experience. So many people really loved that Cloud, I’ll tell you! They really respected it and valued its beauty and the novelty of it,” she said.
Marcia enjoyed her initial experience so much, she agreed to continue volunteering in other capacities too. In the past year, and considering the closure to the building, Marcia has pivoted to online work, by assisting in cataloguing the NAC’s archival house programs to ensure the data will be searchable online in the future. The work is tedious and meticulous, but Marcia has managed to find joy in working with others to help the NAC in any way she can.
“It is a good feeling, through one’s volunteer contribution, to make ordinary Canadians feel comfortable and ‘at home’ at the NAC. It has been a friendly, approachable, and welcoming experience.”
Marcia Armstrong, NAC volunteer
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The NAC is grateful to all the volunteers who have shaped and continue to shape the experience, reputation, and legacy of the institution. Alain Chauvin, the NAC’s Volunteer Coordinator, has been particularly blown away by the generosity and kindness volunteers have demonstrated over the past year.
“Our volunteers have really stepped up during the pandemic – performing very different tasks like screening for Covid or greeting guests in the parking garage. They love the NAC and want to support however they can, whenever they can. I’m extremely thankful to have this great group of volunteers at the NAC,” he said.
For anyone who might be considering lending a hand, Linda suggests the hardest part is taking the first step, but that the rewards outweigh the effort.
“I think I get more out of volunteering than it gets out of me,” she says. “You have nothing to lose and so much to gain, whether it is feeling you have made a difference by contributing to something you believe in. You get more from it than what you put into it. You’ve got nothing to lose – so you might as well just try it.”
For anyone who is curious about volunteering, Linda's advice is to begin by supporting an organization that’s made a difference in your life and go from there.