They’ve been training for weeks. Some are local, others from out of town. They are Lutherans and Anglicans, clergy and laity, young and old. They are the roughly 100 volunteers who help run the complex machine that is Joint Assembly.
And whatever their background, they work as one. “We all share the common goal of having every delegate and visitor leave with a positive experience of their time here,” says Jamie Tomlinson, co-chair of the Joint Local Arrangements Committee. He and his colleagues have been planning logistics for a year and a half and met on site for orientation about a month ago.
Volunteers meet and greet at the airport and drive delegates to their hotels. They act as ushers, directing attendees around the vast Ottawa Convention Centre, and help them navigate the details of registering and getting access to Wi-Fi. Volunteer stewards help in the Joint Assembly Office, assist at sessions and help prepare for the big banquet. They’re also part of the set-up and take-down crews.
Sometimes volunteer work pays off in ways over and above the satisfactions of making a historic convention work smoothly. Sister Anne Keffer, a retired Lutheran deacon from New Hamburg, Ont., reconnected with her old friend Deaconess Aggie Casselman. “I hadn’t seen Aggie since deaconess training in Baltimore in the early 1960s,” she says.
Meet Dominique Boucher, an Anglican from Toronto, and Allan Liimatainen, an Ottawa-based Lutheran. They sit together at the registration desk, Dom handling Wi-Fi access, Allan handling registration. “It’s been fantastic,” says Dom. “People are very understanding and never get angry, even when they have struggles with Wi-Fi.” Adds Allan: “The registration has been so well planned that I’ve never had more than [a few] people lining up at one time. People love the venue.”
For Lutheran Cathy Kochendorfer, volunteering as an usher was a way to add another dimension to attending Joint Assembly with her husband, Larry, a bishop in Edmonton.
Adds usher Maureen Gibson, a retired Bell Canada employee who lives in Ottawa, “It’s a good way of extending the volunteer work I already do for my home parish.”
The Rev. Rick Durrett, rector of Ottawa’s Church of the Resurrection and lead usher, greets people as they approach the first imposing escalator in the convention centre. “I felt this was a historic meeting and I wanted to be part of welcoming people to Ottawa,” he says.
And welcomed people did feel, thanks to the volunteers. They can be justly proud of their hard work.
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Diana Swift is an award-winning writer and editor with 30 years’ experience in newspaper and magazine editing and production. In January 2011, she joined the Anglican Journal as a contributing editor.
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