Over 200 active Friends of Will contributed 3800 volunteer hours to the Great River Shakespeare Festival throughout Season 12. Front of House volunteers, the FOW in black and white who work at each performance, are the largest and most visible FOW team. Other teams worked behind the scenes providing Festival support, Company support, and Community outreach throughout the season and calendar year. The large hospitality team prepared and served very much appreciated meals to the company during June tech week. Other teams provided assistance in capacities such as transportation and housing, distributing Festival brochures, assisting in the costume shop, creating the raffle quilt, helping at events, helping with special projects such as building the Steamboat Days float and communicating within the Friends of Will and with the company. The Friends of Will volunteer organization has over 300 members including many new members who volunteered for the first time in 2015, and Friends of Will-Rochester. Calculated at the Corporation for National and Community Service hourly wage ($24.83) for Minnesota, the Friends of Will contribution is more than $90,000.00.
Thank you from Lee Gundersheimer and Doug Scholz-Carlson
In my two years of working at GRSF, nothing yanks harder at my heartstrings than working with our volunteers in FOW. Whether it is building a float with Bob Hawkings, serving meals with the Worthleys and many others, attending board meetings with Terry Hawkings, watching the work of the quilters led by Mary Alice Anderson, seeing Rev Jim pull up with another car load of company members, Judy Rusert tirelessly guiding some new ushers, Jean Hayes sudukoing a schedule of serving food, the mover and shaker Tom Hoffman, Dee Cipov gathering the troops to Will Run or to poster up the region- you name it, and I have had the pleasure of witnessing the hard work across countless areas being carried out with such expertise and ability it often brings tears to my eyes.
And here I am with the chance to say a bit of thanks. How does one show the gratitude for all that the FOW accomplish? How can one thank each of you enough for making this festival possible, year after year? How can one possibly say enough for the many tireless years of outstanding service from Terry Hawkings? She embodies so much of the simple dignity, passion, joy, and discipline that are the key ingredients of our volunteer spirit. She has co-chaired for several years and has assured us she is still ready to roll up her sleeves and contribute as co-chair and in other roles. Each of us that have had the pleasure of collaborating with her understands just what she means to GRSF and to Winona itself.
I deal in numbers a great deal in my job, both quantifiable and those not as easy to pin down. Simply put, $90,000 this year is what the FOW saved GRSF, if you use the government statistic for counting the cost of their service. But truly, we who work in the arts know this is not an easily countable sum. It is impossible to say what the FOW actually add, but I will leave it to Shakespeare, who has a way with words, to sum up what might be at the heart of all in our beloved FOW. Their spirit to forever pitch in to build a better Festival (and perhaps a bit of essential madness- if one factors in the original quoted context) is at the heart of Ophelia’s lines from Hamlet: ” We know what we are now, but know not what we may be.” ~ Lee Gundersheimer, Managing Director
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The Great River Shakespeare Festival exists thanks to the generosity of our community. Nowhere is that more clear than in the generosity of the Friends of Will. Thank you for giving the most precious thing you have to GRSF: your time.
While it is easy to quantify how much money your donation of time is worth to GRSF, the Friends of Will give something even more important. You create our community. At its heart, the Great River Shakespeare Festival exists to bring us together, to challenge us with great plays, and to spark the conversations that make our community our home. The Friends of Will lead the way in helping our community engage with GRSF in a meaningful way.
The Friends of Will meals during tech week certainly brighten the day for a weary company and saves money for GRSF, but they also cement the bond between the patrons and the artists, the volunteers, the paid staff and everyone else who is part of the company of the Great River Shakespeare Festival. It matters when our patrons are welcomed into the theater by an usher who truly loves the plays. It matters when our out of town company members are met at the airport by someone who values the their work. It matters when the rest of the community comes to an event and sees people they know giving their time to a cause they believe in.
We couldn’t do this work without the Friends of Will. Logistically and financially, it just wouldn’t be possible. But maybe more importantly, without you, without our community, we wouldn’t want to. Thank you for all you do.
~ Doug Scholz-Carlson, Artistic Director