NEWBERRY — Volunteers at the Newberry Opera House have given over 225,000 hours to the Opera House since it reopened in 1998 and that donated time has saved the Opera House more than $1.6 million.
Heather Hawkins, box office manager for the Opera House, said more of those volunteers — who are known as Ambassadors — are needed with the upcoming season gearing up in September.
With 100,000 visitors a year and over 200 events and performances, Hawkins said the Opera House could not function without its amazing volunteers. During their 2013-14 season, staff and tour guides gave tours to over 3,000 people from 10 countries and 39 states.
The term Ambassadors was chosen for the volunteers because Hawkins said they truly are the face of the Opera House interacting with the patrons.
“While we never turn away new ushers, this season the Opera House is particularly looking for more tour guides, concession workers, and hospitality runners,” Hawkins said. “A welcoming smile from a tour guide in the lobby when people pull in off the interstate can win more patrons than any advertisement.”
Hospitality runners, Hawkins said, make their artists’ visits easy and comfortable and can have them wanting to return again and again. Part of their job is to help prepare the meals for the artists that come in for performances. Last season alone, hospitality workers served more than 1,000 meals.
To become an Ambassador, Hawkins said they have scheduled two upcoming certification classes for those interested. The first will be held Aug. 14 at 5 p.m. The second session will be Aug. 16 at 5 p.m. Both classes will be concessions specific training as well as a general session for all new volunteers.
All classes are held at the Opera House, 1201 McKibben St. Call 276-6264 to let the box office know which class you would like to attend. The deadline to register is Aug. 11.
Hawkins said class participants learn fun facts about the Opera House including how fast their volunteers can seat and empty the house during performances and more.
The history of the Opera House is shared with each participant, along with reviewing emergency procedures and policies. Ushers practice finding a seat.
Anyone interested in working concessions is asked to attend a concessions focused session where sanitation procedures, pricing and item location are reviewed then stay for the general session.
Those interested in becoming a tour guide should attend the general session, request a history to review, and schedule a time to shadow a current tour guide.
Following the class, the new ambassadors will have a chance to sign up to volunteer for specific shows during the year so trainees are asked to bring their calendars. The general session takes around two hours from beginning paperwork to show assignments, Hawkins said.
With 30 people needed to fully staff a performance, Hawkins said those interested are more than welcome to attend a class.
Executive Director Deborah Smith said the Opera House would cease to exist without their some 400 plus volunteers.
“We are so incredibly grateful,” Smith said of their volunteers. “They do it all from cooking for 80 Bulgarian opera singers to driving to Raleigh to pick up Roberta Flack, to helping file.”
If you love to talk, and tell the wonderful tale of Newberry become a tour guide, Smith said.
Almost any language fluency Smith said was appreciated. They currently give tours in German, French, Swedish, and Icelandic, but need Spanish and Chinese speaking tour guides.
“The Ambassadors truly tell Newberry’s story to the world and it is a great place to meet like-minded friends,” Smith said.