Written by Nora Rickey

I was raised in an Irish Catholic family and attended Catholic school from Kindergarten through the end of high school. In my schools, giving back to the community was a fundamental element to my religious education. For class projects, we were instructed to find an impactful organization where we could donate time. 

This instruction led me to begin volunteering at Interact Center for Visual and Performing Arts, a center for artists with disabilities. I loved working there as a volunteer: I got to work with talented performance artists as a young actor, hang out and get to know people who eventually became like family to me, and participate and support different events that showcased the performers. I consistently showed up because I had a passion for the work happening at Interact, and wanted to help in any way I could to carry forward their mission of radical inclusion through the arts. I continued my involvement with Interact as a volunteer long after I graduated from high school, and now I work there as a part-time staff in their Visual Arts program. 

Working at Interact as a staff member, I have learned how crucial volunteers are to helping the community function. While staff work to facilitate programming and care for different artist’s needs, volunteers support by engaging with artists over their art work, support the creation of art, or help to organize and sort through supplies so that artists can use them freely. And nowt only do they provide a valuable service to the community, but they also infuse the space with new energy and can give attention to people or areas staff don’t have the time to give focus to. 

In my short time at the Ely Folk School, I have learned how volunteers support the school just like they have at Interact Center. Not only do they fill in areas where our staff cannot spend the time, they also carry the passion we all share at the folk school into their given time. Our community is a beautiful network made up of the staff at the school, the instructors who teach and the participants in classes, community members, and the volunteers. 

If you are interested in supporting the folk school through volunteering, I would be happy to bring you into the fold. Our volunteers work on a variety of projects from cleaning the space to serving as class hosts. For every three hours they donate to the folk school, they receive credit of one hour towards a class. If you’re looking for an affordable way to take a class, this is a great opportunity and also helps to give back to the folk school. 

Here’s a list of the volunteer opportunities we currently offer that are accessible for signups here.

Meet EFS Volunteer Jodi Chaffin

When did you start volunteering?
I started volunteering for the Folk School, well, I don’t know exactly….in its first few years anyways.

What inspired you to start volunteering?
I really like the idea of the Folk School, a community resource for all, to learn new skills, and I know it requires lots of volunteers to make it work. When I first volunteered, I was out front, and it was so enjoyable to meet people coming in for the first time exploring what the folk school has to offer and seeing their excitement when they get close to a birch bark canoe and see them in awe of the quilts hanging and when they catch sight of all the other items around the school made by Folk School instructors. And I’ve taken many of the classes so I can share my enthusiasm with them.

Why do you enjoy volunteering?
 As a volunteer, I’m like one of the many pegs in the birch bark canoe, meaning I’m a minor little piece of the whole picture, but when all the minor pieces are put together, we make a difference. More recently when I volunteer, I enter data that the Folk School needs to record and I submit classes to the Chamber website.

What is a fun fact about you?
When I’m not volunteering, I can be found playing outdoors, or inside sketching, painting or writing, or down in the cities visiting my 3 year old granddaughter.