Anyone who has attended a show at The Washington Center for Performing Arts knows it runs like a well-oiled machine. From curtain up to curtain close and everything in between, the experience is exquisite. Credit for patron’s enjoyable experience is primarily due to the performance itself, with each show carefully curated for Olympia audiences’ enjoyment as detailed here.

Washington Center volunteerism
The Washington Center shows appreciation for their volunteers with a special reception at the end of each season. Photo credit: Nani Bisset

These shows, too, wouldn’t be possible without the staff at the Center who work diligently to bring you the best in the arts and performance year after year. But there is another essential group of people who make it all happen. The volunteers. As a not-for-profit organization, The Washington Center requires the help of many volunteers to pull off their mainstage shows without a hitch.

Every season, over three hundred volunteers give their time generously to the community through the arts. In just eleven months, volunteers logged 7,485 hours of time during shows and performances. That is a monetary equivalent of $224,849! These volunteers also facilitated the sales of over seventy thousand dollars of concessions and merchandise. They ushered, assisted and served approximately 84,000 patrons during 238 shows. And, they did all of that simply to support The Washington Center and the arts. While The Washington Center does a great job of making sure their helpers feel loved and appreciated on the job, they wanted to find a way to communicate that to the community as well.

Washington Center Volunteers
The Al Award was created to honor the legacy of volunteer Al Rynties who passed away suddenly in 2016. Photo credit: Nani Bisset

On opening night of the 2016 season, the staff was struck with a sudden and devastating loss of one of their volunteers. Al Rynties had been a volunteer for two years and had become a familiar face around the Center. “Everyone knew him. He had the best smile and the best laugh,” says Stacy Hicks, former volunteer coordinator for the Center. The tragedy highlighted just how much the volunteers meant to the Center staff and the community. As a result, an award was created to honor Al and all the other volunteers that go above and beyond the call of duty. It is appropriately named The Al Award.

The Al Award is given to an outstanding volunteer at the end of the season. Through a nomination process, names are submitted for the title of Volunteer of the Year and The Al Award. All the volunteers can nominate whomever they would like from among their ranks. Once the nominations are complete, it goes to a vote. The winner is then acknowledged at a reception for all the volunteers. This year, the recipient of The Al Award is Kat Will.

Washington Center for Performing Arts
Kat beams with her bouquet of flowers after accepting the Al Award for volunteer of the year. Photo credit: Nani Bisset

Kat has been giving her time at The Washington Center for about two years. In that time she has made a huge impact on the staff and the volunteer who work alongside her. Nani Bisset, volunteer coordinator, says she especially loves Kat’s stories. “She is a total kick to be around,” she said with a laugh. Nani lovingly retold a story about a time when Kat performed in a clowning troupe. “She’s a fascinating person,” says Nani.

During the nomination process, other volunteers are allowed to share comments about their nominee. She was described as always “keeping us on our toes,” and was commended for her “style and flair.” Another person said of Kat, “Her vibrancy, warmth and comic relief is so very appreciated. She adds her own fun and funky touch to the Center that is adored by fellow volunteers, staff, and patrons alike.” It is no wonder that Kat was given this award.

Although The Washington Center is blessed with a plethora of wonderful individuals to volunteer, there is always a need for more. Volunteering at The Washington Center is a great way to give back to the community while embracing the arts. There is no minimum time commitment. You can help with as few or as many shows as you’d like. To become a volunteer, you simply sign up via the online form. Once you’ve been confirmed, attendance to a quick training session is required. Upon completion you are ready to get involved, meet new people and make new friends.

Washington Center
Kat accepts her Al Award at the volunteer appreciation reception for volunteer of the year.
Photo credit: Nani Bisset

The Washington Center for Performing Arts is an important asset in our community. Assistance from volunteers is essential to their continued success. Be sure to show your gratitude for each and every volunteer at The Washington Center for their time, energy, and enthusiasm the next time you visit for a show.

And, give a very special thanks to Kat Will for her outstanding work ethic and fervor that has earned her the honor of the 2017 Al Rynties Award for Volunteer Excellence.

The Washington Center For Performing Arts
512 Washington St SE, Olympia


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