It’s National Volunteer Week, an annual celebration established in 1974 “to inspire, recognize, and encourage people to engage in their communities.” Year after year, it earns no less than a Presidential Proclamation.
The Skirball has more than 300 active volunteers and docents, who together contribute in excess of 30,000 hours a year. I get to work most directly with the volunteers who staff the lobby, welcoming guests, selling Skirball Memberships, and offering information. I’ve gotten to know many of them personally. They regularly ask about the status of my love life (don’t ask!), how my apartment search is going, which race I’m running next, and the latest on my bagpiping lessons. I’m even learning some Yiddish phrases, which are great fun to weave into conversations. My fave is “aroys gevorfen de gelt,” which loosely translates to “throwing the money out the window.” I also like “it vet gornisht helfen,” which means “it won’t help one bit!”
With National Volunteer Week upon us, I want to give a shout out to just some of the volunteers and docents with whom I am honored to work.
Lori Dinkin and Florence Frisch are my aforementioned Yiddish coaches. Both of them were part of the initial corps of eighty Skirball volunteers, beginning their stints here before our Skirball Cultural Center doors were even open. I was thrilled to be part of last summer’s volunteer recognition luncheon, where thirty volunteers—including Lori and Florence—received their fifteen-year service pins. We also acknowledged three volunteers with thirty (!) years of service to the Skirball, extending back to when the Skirball Museum was at Hebrew Union College (HUC) downtown. An unbelievable showing of devotion and dedication in my book! Per Wilma Friedman, Volunteer Service Council President and one of the three thirty-year folks, there were only ten original volunteers at HUC. I am amazed that three of them are still involved!
Eleanor Hauft and Lee Kassel help me “hold down the fort” on our busy Sunday afternoons. Fast friends since meeting in a swim class, they both looked to the Skirball to stay involved after retiring. Their volunteering began with the Einstein exhibition back in 2004, and they tell me that time is flying by. Lee sums up her Skirball volunteering experience as “This is home.”
I also get to work with docents who lead the private tours that I schedule for groups. I’m giving all-star accolades to Joan and Joel Schrier (pictured above), who are both touring docents and volunteers at many of our public programs. The Schriers were also part of the original group of Skirball docents, first trained back in 1995. Thirty in that class are still actively leading tours. Joan told me she “dragged Joel” here, and now she “needs to drag him home.” You may see them tag-teaming a tour, or working the will-call table at one of our concerts or lectures. Truly, they are here all the time!