Giving back to the community has seen a lot of changes this past year but the one thing that has remained constant is volunteers working hard to do good! This National Volunteer Week, HeartPress #BrokersOfGood is celebrating 22.7 million volunteers across Canada by featuring stories from local volunteers in action. This week we spoke with Judy and Ruth who are volunteers with Belfry Theatre.
Describe your volunteer role with the Belfry Theatre
Judy: The last five years or so, I have been a Greeter. My role includes handing out programs and answering patrons’ questions that range from washroom locations to the length of the performance.
As well, if a ticket taker does “not show,” I take on the duties of that role to ensure we get all patrons into the theatre, allowing the show to start on time.
However, for close to 25 years before being a Greeter, I was in the concession selling coffee, tea, wine, and beer as well as assisting with programs/ticket taking, if required.
Depending on the need, I’ve taken tickets, packaged up candy, ink stamped coffee cup collars, opened and closed doors, cleaned up the theatre, run the dishwasher, chatted with our guests, and thanked them!
Did you need any special skills or past experience for this position?
Judy: I had worked in a bar to make extra money when I was planning to emigrate to Canada many years ago but — that was “bonus background” as working in a bar environment is fast paced. At The Belfry Theatre, it can be fast paced as well, especially with a full house at intermission, therefore some folks may take longer to adjust than others.
Ruth: I believe that one needs to like people and want to support local theatre to enjoy these positions. You also need to be able to take direction as we have rules and guidelines to follow and must remember we are representing The Belfry.
How did you find out about the Belfry Theatre and their volunteer positions?
Judy: A work colleague was going on vacation and asked if I liked live theatre and if I would like to take his place at the concession stand. However, The Belfry Theatre does not take on volunteers this way anymore.
Ruth: I volunteered with Sin City for a number of years before they moved the show to the Belfry. I needed to become a proper Belfry Volunteer to continue and I was so thrilled to do so.
How long have you been a volunteer?
Judy: I have been a volunteer for close to 30 years now. I took a couple of short breaks for overseas trips, illness, etc. but, the Belfry has accommodated all my absences and welcomed me back with open arms. It makes me feel like I am part of the family.
Ruth: I’ve been a Belfry volunteer for 2 years now and am in awe of the double digit year volunteers! I hope to continue as long as I can.
Why did you decide to volunteer?
Judy: I was quite new to Victoria and had always liked to volunteer or help out so after 30 seconds of deliberation – I said yes. After all, my parents took me to a live theatre presentation when I was eight and I was immediately hooked.
Ruth: As mentioned earlier, I started off volunteering with Sin City which led me to becoming a volunteer with the Belfry.
What were you expecting when you signed up?
Judy: To “work” in the concession for two shows while my cohort was on vacation.
Ruth: I thought I’d just be volunteering with Sin City, however I was welcomed as a Belfry Volunteer for all shows and special events. I also expected that I would be helped by more experienced volunteers and our lovely lead Jane Bloomfield, which was the case!
Did anything surprise you?
Judy: Yes, what surprised me was how friendly all the staff were to a newcomer. As well as how much the Belfry appreciates their volunteers and how much they show that care to each and every one of us. I was also surprised at how I fell in love with this theatre so quickly and how gratifying it is to be able to chat with audience members when I sit beside them during intermission. Some audience members from out of town come back over and over again because they really like our productions and being able to learn that first hand is so interesting. Finally, I am amazed at how much some folks like to share.
Ruth: I was surprised and happy about how diverse the volunteers were. I also really enjoy talking with them and learning about why they volunteer.
What advice would you give to others who are looking to volunteer?
Judy: Don’t hesitate. Check out their website, and don’t be afraid to ask a volunteer or a staff member who is involved. There are many opportunities out there, so don’t miss out! I have learned so much about what it takes to mount a show and there are often volunteer opportunities for most unexpected things. For example, I used to be part of a group that packaged the nuts and candies that were to be sold in concession (a fun group). I also ironed linens too. Overall, just be open to help wherever there is the need.
Ruth: Believe that your skills and enthusiasm are so appreciated by the Belfry.
** The Belfry Theatre wanted us to note that they cannot accept new volunteers at this time because they have a wait list that comes first once they are able to lift COVID restrictions and begin operations again.