SHERIDAN — Volunteers compose a decent amount of labor at various local businesses. Two of the most notable places that utilize volunteer work are the WYO Performing Arts and Education Center and The Hub on Smith.
WYO Performing Arts and Education Center Executive Director Erin Butler said the theater utilizes many volunteers during its season from September to May. They help load sets backstage, work concessions, take tickets, usher people to seats and do anything else to improve the flow of an event.
The application process is fairly minimal. It entails filling out a form with one’s contact information and interested work areas. Concession workers need a few hours of additional training through the Sheridan Police Department, since the volunteers sell wine and beer.
Butler said a core group of 15 to 20 volunteers often give their time, generally because they like supporting the arts and interacting with people who attemd shows.
“It’s fun to connect with the same people when they come in to see a show and the same volunteers,” Butler said. “It’s kind of a nice little family atmosphere.”
The volunteers span all ages — parents often volunteer with their kids — but are often retired individuals who have more time to help.
Butler said an average performance entails the assistance of about 15 volunteers who arrive at least 45 minutes before a show and stay through at least intermission. They don’t get paid, but they usually have the option to see the onstage entertainment for free, unless a show or performance is completely sold out.
Butler sometimes wishes the volunteers could receive more direct compensation.
“Especially with the folks that are here all the time, there’s a desire to want to give them something more than what they’re getting,” Butler said. “On the other end of that, if they weren’t enjoying what they were doing and feeling fulfilled in some way when they’re here, they wouldn’t come back.”
Similarly, Butler said she is always aware of expressing gratitude toward volunteers, who are an essential part of business, which only carries five full-time employees.
“I worry that maybe they don’t feel appreciated or that we’re not showing them enough appreciation,” Butler said. “It’s just kind of incredible that they would be willing to do that … There would be no way possible that we would do what we do without that additional support.”
Unlike the WYO’s nine-month volunteer season, The Hub on Smith works with volunteers year-round. Before a volunteer is brought on board, Terri Hayden, director of volunteer services at The Hub on Smith, reviews applications, looks at openings, interviews the applicants and gives them a tour of potential work spaces.
Some applicants have to pass a background check, including meal deliverers. Before officially starting, new volunteer drivers participate in a few ride-alongs to get a feel for the job.
The volunteers at The Hub on Smith span nearly all ages. In summer, Hayden hires middle-schoolers — affectionately referred to as “volunteens” — but also has a few volunteers in their 90s.
Hayden said her favorite part is building relationships with volunteers and hearing their reasons for working. She added that the volunteers are mostly women, but many couples deliver meals together.
Filling positions provides a constant challenge for Hayden. Hayden said she has a list of 355 volunteers but a lot of the jobs require weekly commitments, which isn’t as doable for retirees looking to travel. Furthermore, some volunteers only live in Sheridan during the warmer months of the year, making winter openings more difficult to fill. Hayden also said volunteers sometimes simply don’t show up when they were scheduled to work, which leads to last-minute substitutes.
“It’s just kind of a puzzle to have it work for the volunteers as well as our schedule,” Hayden said.
Hayden mixes and matches different people to their interests but said she is also willing to hear a suggestion from a potential volunteer, like a few local teachers who organized game nights at The Hub on Smith.
“If it’s a good fit, we say, ‘Heck yeah,’” Hayden said.
Many volunteers work irregular hours but for a cause they enjoy, which helps many businesses operate more smoothly.