Giving back

January 31, 2020

I was never a joiner. I was always one of those solitary souls who sat in the back row in classrooms whenever I could and raised my hand as seldom as possible. My name wasn’t on the roster of any sports teams. I never joined clubs and I would have stuck needles in my eyes before I went to a pep rally. Suffice it to say, I was never the prom queen either.


As that old commercial says, however, I’ve certainly come a long way, especially at the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts & Humanities (MAC) in Cape May, but still not nearly as far as some of our amazing volunteers.


We’ve probably all had dealings with volunteers in one place or another. If you’ve been in the hospital, you’re sure to find them there. If you’ve ever adopted a cat or a dog, you know those organizations rely heavily on volunteers. In general, we see volunteers and non-profits as two peas in a pod.   Until I joined MAC, however, I never truly appreciated the history of these folks, nor their enthusiasm.


Many of our volunteers have a background in teaching or a similar service, which is understandable because teaching is at the heart of MAC’s mission. Perhaps they no longer have the energy and stamina to deal with a classroom of rowdy 10-year-olds or surly teens, but the love of imparting learning to others is still strong. For those men and women, MAC is a perfect fit. They still get to do what they do best and love to do, because they want to and not because they have to. And isn’t that something we’d all like to do?


We have so many volunteers doing things they may never have done before. We have dozens of clerical needs, such as folding letters and stuffing envelopes, where every set of hands is of enormous value. We have men and women with degrees in business or engineering who pull weeds or polish the brass rails in our trolleys each week. At some of our major festivals or events, our volunteers set up chairs, clear tables, carry trash or take tickets. Two perfect examples of events that would not function without volunteers are our August Craft Beer, Music & Crab Festival and our holiday Christmas Candlelight House Tours. Our summertime festival has grown to attract thousands of locals and visitors, and requires scores of volunteers. The same is true for the Candlelight Tours, where each property on tour needs at least one or more volunteers to check wrist bands and help the owners direct visitors in and out of the properties.

Each year, we offer thanks by way of our Volunteer Recognition Reception, held in late April. Volunteers are acknowledged for the number of hours they spend on MAC’s behalf and we try to convey the deep appreciation we feel for their efforts. We’re joined in this by our partners at Sturdy Savings Bank, who exhibit their commitment to the community and their appreciation for the spirit of volunteerism by sponsoring this yearly event.


It’s also the one time of year that we get to actually see almost all of our volunteers. The very nature of their contribution to MAC most often keeps them behind the scenes and, while the names may be familiar, we don’t always get a chance to see the person that goes along with it. So, it’s an event I look forward to each year. It’s a chance to say “thanks,” something we can never do enough.


If you’d like to pitch in and join MAC’s volunteer corps, go to our website and click on the “Get Involved” button at the top and check out our volunteer page, especially the listings for our Volunteers of the Month. One nice thing about wanting to be a volunteer is that you can be sure the position is never filled; there’s always room for more, especially you.


-- Jean Barraclough, formerly MAC’s marketing director,  is newly retired but does graphic design at home for This Week in Cape May and the MAC Newsletter, maintains the current MAC website and is also the exhibit designer.