Thursday, April 10, 2014

Try Volunteering at the Edge Center! Enrich Your Community and Enrich Yourself!!

The week of April 6 through 13 was National Volunteer Week and the Grand Rapids Herald Review ran a special section on the event in its Business Section. The Edge Center participated with an article about our volunteers and what they mean to the center’s existence. The whole article is included here along with pictures of some volunteers adding their special presence to the center’s activities.

There is no argument that volunteering helps both body and soul. Time working with people enriches and lengthens lives. In environments where you might choose to be a “shut-in” because of the weather, volunteering gives you a reason to get out because you are needed. In older citizens, study after study shows that keeping active pushes back the Alzheimer’s threat, keeps you physically stronger, adds to your purpose in life, widens your social network…and on, and on, and on.  For the younger people, it gives you a chance to find out about events and experiences you may never get to see in person because they are gone from the scene, but very much alive in the imagination of older people. Plus it lets you appreciate life’s experiences a little more giving you a possible view into a totally different life style from even your parents provide.

These are the more personal “reasons” you might consider doing volunteer work, but the very real and practical is that volunteers are needed and without them much of what we enjoy might not be possible. Below read what The Edge Center said about volunteerism in the Herald supplement.  

The following pictures in the article do not relate to the volunteers mentioned in the copy.

Volunteers: the Life Blood of Bigfork’s Edge Center (From The Grand Rapids Herald Review with additional pictures)

Sharon ventured out into falling snow only because she had to bring cookies for intermission treats.  She found a lively crowd at the Flamenco dance performance at the Edge Center in Bigfork.  Winter wasn’t so bad!

As Susan ran errands in Bigfork, she talked to Nan in the bank, Mark on the street and Renee and Val in the grocery store about how they were helping in a play at the Edge, All the King’s Women.  Susan only knew these people from volunteering at the Edge Center, but she felt threads of connection to the community she had lived in for only a short time.

Jane decided that continuing to enjoy acting and back stage work at the Edge was a decisive reason for having surgery.  Joe went into training to improve his health and strength for a physically demanding role on the Edge stage.  Terry combatted his depression by finding purpose in helping create stage sets.  Judy forgot her aching bones while she visited with Gallery visitors. A volunteer “inspector” worked, sometimes with splitting headaches spent 160 hours at the Edge Center last year overseeing the building needs.  Such a strong sense of commitment brings benefits to both the volunteers and the Edge Center.

It is amazing what volunteers can accomplish.  In fact, with the exception of one part-time administrative assistant, volunteers created and completely run the Edge Center.

Fifteen years ago, the Edge Center for the Arts only existed in the dreams and plans of a handful of volunteers in the Edge of the Wilderness area of Bigfork, Marcell, and Effie.

But what dreamers and planners!

Patty, Jeff, Ann, Pete, Mary, Gene, Tom, Jan and Bonnie dreamed about a building where people could come out of the woods and share their artistic talent.  A place where young and old could watch live performances and view original art.  The dream went so far as to hope that students would leave Bigfork for the Big City having had opportunities that were way beyond expectations for such a remote area.  And the dream has come true.  After several roles at the Edge, Jake has a successful rock and roll band in the Metro area.  Luke is an award winning student in opera performance.  Jesse’s time on the Edge stage gave him the confidence needed to be an attorney.

The planners came up with a “Wildly Unexpected” building.  They talked Bigfork High School alumnus, Bruce Blackmer into volunteering the services of his large architectural firm, Northwest Architectural Company, to design the 283-seat, state-of-the-art theatre facility with a visual art gallery.  The plan was to seek local donations and state grants for the 2.2 million dollars needed.  All this dreaming and planning was done by volunteers.

In 2004, professionals constructed the building, but from then on, for more than 9 years now, volunteers have operated the entire Edge Center.  Some of these are professionals who donate their knowledge, experience and time. Patty Feld is a professional actor and director who creates theatre experiences at the Edge and the current treasurer is Karen Springer, an experienced accountant.  Contractors, lawyers, professors, and engineers have offered their professional services on a short or long term basis.  Other volunteers have learned to take on roles that would usually be done by paid personnel, such as a doctor running theater lights and sound, an administrative assistant producing plays, an office manager sewing costumes, or a teacher curating exhibits in the Gallery.

Where can more volunteers fit into Edge work?  Depending on your interest and experience, you could work backstage with props, costumes, sets, or deck management.  Lighting and sound technician trainees are needed.  The front-of-house duties include ushers, greeters, and house managers.  Distributing posters, taking photos, auditioning for plays, and hosting the Gallery are other ways to become involved.

Perhaps you have an interest in fundraising, grant writing, or keeping up the building.  We need you.

In all, about 15,000 hours are donated each year to provide live performances and visual arts for the community.  We appreciate all the work that creates a place that builds community in northern Minnesota through the arts.