Raise hands, raise spirits

Even in a busy anniversary season, volunteers made it all look easy.


NJPAC’s volunteers stepped forward to honor their own at the annual Volunteer Appreciation Dinner on April 23, but at the same time took a nostalgic step back to share memories of 20 years of Arts Center history.


That’s not to say the volunteer legacy began with the first raising of the curtain in October 1997; in fact, volunteers were rallying well in advance of opening night, said founding volunteer Dena F. Lowenbach, a Trustee of the dinner’s sponsor, the Women’s Association of NJPAC. She reminded guests that in 1991, she and a handful of others were recruited to fly the flag for an institution that existed solely on paper.


Days gone by were recalled in a display of photos and press clippings, as well as a dining table with a single chair set to the side, where a votive was lit in memory of past arts champions. Wells Fargo Jazz for Teens set the mood for cocktails in Prudential Hall Lobby, and later that evening Emmy award-winning composer and saxophonist Hunter Hayes sang selections from the Great American Songbook.


NJPAC President and CEO John Schreiber, along with his predecessor, Lawrence P. Goldman, crossed paths at the podium in a flashback of baton-passing. “Every time NJPAC goes into the community, volunteers are there … I can’t imagine better representatives or facilitators than each of you,” said Schreiber, estimating that in the past season volunteers populated about 400 events or performances, and another 200 produced by the Department of Community Engagement.


Goldman, who interrupted his own remarks to embrace longtime volunteer Joan Lowery, noted that while what goes on stage is important to the vitality of the Arts Center, the institution’s underlying values will guarantee a centuries-long life. He added that volunteers here “stand for decency, civility, diversity, and respect for each other.”


And in the sincerest form of flattery, other organizations are known to “imitate” procedures and programs advocated by NJPAC’s Office of Volunteer Services, said its Director, Ginny Bowers Coleman.


“Tonight is an outpouring of support to those individuals who continue to make the dream a reality,” she added.


The honorees for 2018 included Ellen Woods, recipient of the Dena F. Lowenbach Volunteer of the Year Award and a can-do, two-year volunteer who has made herself indispensable by helping in a variety of roles in Group Sales, Community Engagement, Arts Education and more. Shirley Richard, who accepted the Kandice Dickinson Award, has volunteered for 19 years at NJPAC and is a welcome presence to patrons and front of house staffers alike as a dedicated Program Monitor.


In that morning’s Wall Street Journal, Lowenbach announced, an article described cognitive health score improvements in people who volunteer 100 hours a year. We’d say that’s a no-brainer.


June 4, 2018