Oct 11, 2013 View All News

"Happy Days" Are Here


Grease was the word recently at NJPAC, where hep cats and cute kitties mingled with bobby soxers and dapper Dans at the Volunteer Season Kick-Off – this year a nod to the nifty Fifties and Sixties.

(“Grease” refers here to “elbow grease” or “greasing the wheels” because that’s what NJPAC’s volunteers are famous for, even though performing in Grease the musical would be easy street for some of them.)

Evoking a popular song title of the era, NJPAC President and CEO John Schreiber called the volunteers “the heart and soul of the institution.” “Your contributions are invaluable, upstairs in the offices and downstairs with our patrons,” he added. Volunteers have myriad roles as receptionists and researchers, greeters and guides.

Their dedication to the Arts Center, according to Ginny Bowers Coleman, Director of Volunteer Services, is evident in a show-must-go-on attitude – even if that means distributing handouts on foot. Sporting purple T-shirts this past summer, volunteers were conspicuously helpful at the Horizon Foundation Sounds of the City outdoor concerts.

“You were everywhere!,” exclaimed NJPAC Marketing and Communications Vice President Donna Walker-Kuhne to the party guests. “You were smiling and it was HOT!”

Flash back to the Fifties. Decked out in soda-fountain finery – pink bowties, crisp white shirts, paper hats and pens in pockets – a clean-cut crew of volunteers ladled out comfort food provided by attendees. Tables were decorated with giant ice cream soda glasses, frothy with pink and white tissue paper, and vintage 45’s.

“We’re gonna rock and roll all day long,” promised Mistress of Ceremony Lulu Conner, swinging her ribboned pigtails. “Today is the oldest you’ve ever been and the youngest you’ll ever be.”

She could have been talking about Winifred Milton and her tiny great-grandchild, Liani Harris, who was the cat’s meow in polka dots, a poodle skirt and a varsity jacket. “She’s dressed as me in the Fifties,” said the Ironbound resident. Eunice Peterson said she chose a costume on the far side of the decades, envisioning Melba Moore in the musical Hair. Schreiber, however, had someone else in mind. “Pam Grier has joined us!,” he hailed from the podium.

Following a hula hoop contest, dancers in the Twist competition shook, rattled and rolled to “You Got What It Takes” in the Chase Room. Robert Neveloff of Livingston, an optometrist by day who was outfitted in a three-piece, mint-green suit and red, white and blue bucks, walked away with an NJPAC swag bag. He and his wife, Sirena Terr, began volunteering at NJPAC’s Customer Information Center when their son was enrolled in Jazz for Teens years ago – and they’re still on board.

Interested in volunteering? Click here for details.

Oct. 11, 2013