As we finish off National Volunteer Week and celebrating all those heroes that donate their time, energy and resources to a worthy cause, I wanted to highlight a very special volunteer that recently received a Volunteer of the Year Award. Sarah Suydam was nominated from Molly S. as a Personal Hero and I definitely agree! Sarah shares with us her experience as a volunteer....
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I grew up always having my hands dipped in several community service oriented projects. Whether that was through Girl Scouts or National Honor Society when I was younger, or through Children's Miracle Network while a titleholder within the Miss America Organization, lending your time to something greater than yourself has always been a no-brainer for me. It's just always been the right thing to do. Singing has always been my main creative outlet and way of expressing joy. Once I was out of college and aged out of the Miss America Organization, it became more difficult to find a platform to share that.
Enter Circle Theatre! Circle truly is Grand Rapids’ go-to destination for exceptional theatrical arts in an intimate setting. I initially got involved through my lovely friend/performer/Circle staff member, Noddea Skidmore when I was new to Grand Rapids. She convinced me to audition for a Summer Concert Series show back in 2015 and after being cast and being a performer again, I got an up-close and personal reminder of just how integral performing arts are for those who have a talent to share. I saw not only singers and actors give awe worthy performances, but also lighting technicians, sound engineers, stage managers and directors put in an enormous amount of effort to make sure a show flowed seamlessly, all for the sake of art. I saw how many people looked at Circle as a home, and as a place where they felt included despite the things society may judge them for.
After that, I decided to get involved in as many ways as I could. I joined the Audience Engagement Committee where members are encouraged to voice their ideas and help implement them, the Marketing Committee where I write press releases and proofread materials along with others, I learned how to do makeup for their production of Cats (which was a super fun and challenging experience) and other opportunities as they arise.
I was truly, truly humbled to learn I was selected as Circle Theatre's Volunteer of the Year for 2016-2017. It's an honor I feel like so many people within the community are worthy of being recognized for. I can't stress that enough.
Through working with Circle, I have learned that everyone has a story. Being present and being willing to listen is imperative. Circle serves as a place for people to tell their story whether thats through their portrayal of a specific character, emotion of a song, or just simply a place that values the existence of those just trying to be themselves. In the world right now we're seeing major cuts to arts funding, which is devastating. There are so many organizations that function as they do because volunteers donate their time. Seeing the impact Circle has on so many people who are either involved in shows or simply go see them is reason enough for me to want to stay involved, because I believe in the power of performing arts. And always, always listen.
I truly believe that a life lived fully is a life where you give to others when and where you can.
It's not about being recognized or being given a pat on the back for doing your good deed for the day. I lead a privileged life and am in a position to lend a hand and it feels irresponsible not to.
I'm pleased I can lend skills I utilize in my job daily for a greater good but I also want to be that person people feel like they can simply walk up to and have a conversation with. It could be about the weather, their dog or something more serious. I hope that by giving back through volunteering, I'm also sending the message that I'm listening and I'm a person someone can talk to. I also don't ever shut up about Circle so my hope is that more people know about what they do, also!
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Sarah is a great example of the many avenues available to volunteer. To be able to devote some time to a cause that pulls at your heartstrings is truly admirable! Any time you give your energy to help other people, animals or our world you are being a hero! Thank you Sarah for sharing your story and helping to highlight one of the many ways someone can get involved. You are a Personal Hero!
Learn more about Circle Theatre at http://circletheatre.org.