ArtPrize Volunteers: Giving Time, Offering Friendship

Originally posted in Women's Lifestyle on August 15, 2014

West Michigan is well known for its culture of giving, not only with donations of money, but also significant donations of time. Volunteers come from all walks of life, with a variety of skills and interests, and with the desire to help make their community a better place. One of the biggest volunteer opportunities of the year is right around the corner, with over a thousand positions to fill.

On August 21, ArtPrize hosts its Volunteer Kick-off Party at the Ledyard Building. The website ( has all the details about signing up, group opportunities, social meet-ups and more, so if you are interested in joining this virtual army of do-gooders, do check it out.

According to Brooke Hotchkiss and Ashlee Lambert, volunteer coordinators at ArtPrize, the people filling the roles represent a broad spectrum of people. Age range is across the board with 20 percent who are 18-24 years old, 35 percent are 25-44, 37 percent are 45-64, and 8 percent are 65 plus. Women make up about 60 percent of the volunteer base, and about half are from the city of Grand Rapids, with the other half from the surrounding suburbs. A handful arrives from out of state, planning their vacation time or a visit to relatives to coincide with ArtPrize.

“One of my favorite aspects of the job is getting to know so many people in the community, of such diverse ages and backgrounds,” says Hotchkiss. “I enjoy meeting new volunteers each year, and welcoming back many returning ones.”

There are several areas for volunteers to participate, including wayfinding, leadership, hub hospitality, events, artist hosting, and the group volunteer program.

“It’s a challenge organizing so many people,” says Lambert. “But the payoff is great when you are reminded of how many in the community give back. We’ll see volunteers at the door early, waiting to help out. They’re pumped and ready to go.”

One returning volunteer is Mary Panek, who together with her husband Rich, host artists in their home. With their two kids off to college, they decided to make use of the extra room in their empty nest. Located north of the city in a wooded landscape, the house offered separate living spaces within the house proper as well an apartment area over the garage.

They began hosting in 2011, with three individuals from across the United States.

Image courtesy of Women’s Lifestyle Magazine.