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GC2009: General Convention Volunteers are dedicated corps in Spirit of Ubuntu

GC2009: General Convention Volunteers are a dedicated corps in the Spirit of Ubuntu

Mary Ann Mueller in Anaheim
Special Correspondent
July 9, 2009

ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA---It took Lynn Headley three years of hard work, planning and focused dedication to bring her to this moment at the Episcopal General Convention, which is being held in the shadow of Disneyland. She is the overall coordinator of the more than 1200 volunteers who have poured into Anaheim to help make everything run smoothly for everyone else.

She and her corps of volunteers can easily be found because they all wear bright yellow aprons with a massive 76th General Convention logo. They are very identifiable on Convention grounds, a welcome sight to the lost and weary and a much desired souvenir for others.

Although Ms. Headley will take issue with someone describing her aprons as yellow - they are gold.

The head volunteer explained that usually General Convention volunteers are clad in red or blue aprons, but it was her choice so she chose gold in honor of California whose nickname is the "Golden State", something that harkens back to the famed 1849 gold rush which ultimately helped to put California on the map.

The Convention volunteers play a critical role in helping to keep the Convention flowing. They are the answer people. They know where the House of Deputies is located or where to find the Daughters of the King booth in Exhibition Hall and where the best cup of coffee can be found on the grounds. They can point you to the elevators or show you where your hotel is located in relation to the Anaheim Convention Center.

They are also the gofers for both Houses while they are in session. The volunteers act as pages on the floor of each House and help print, collate and deliver the mountains of paperwork generated by each House's daily deliberations.

They also help provide security and ensure that only official deputies step inside the blue barrier onto the floor of the House of Deputies. They keep a close eye on things to make sure all is well.

The volunteers help embody Ubuntu.

"We are because you are," General Convention Secretary Gregory Straub told them while encouraging them to take pride in their unique service to the Convention.

"If it were not for the volunteers it would be very difficult to have the Convention," Ms. Headley confided. "We help make it happen."

The volunteers come from all over the United States. Some travel from General Convention to General Convention just to be a part of it. They come by car, plane and train from all states and most dioceses. They quietly work behind the scenes making sure that the myriad of details is taken care of and to be a part of the whole process.

In all, 1200 hearty souls have ventured forth, but only about 300 are on grounds at a time. Some volunteers will come for the entire Convention while others will come only for a day or two.

Ms. Headley said it is not hard to get volunteers interested in serving at General Convention. They come from all walks of life --- attorneys, police officers, college professors, clergy, seminarian students, and the list go on.

She pointed out that some volunteers were Deputies first so they return to Convention as volunteers thus keeping involved with Convention and the inner workings of The Episcopal Church and to stay connected with the friends they made in previous Conventions.

"It's like a big family reunion," she said.

Since July 2, the volunteers have been on site to help with the setting up of Convention. They gladly put in long hours from 6 AM until the last evening's legislative hearing is over. They will keep up this fevered pitch until the last Convention deputy and bishop is packed up and has left next Friday.

The volunteers help in many ways. They serve as interpreters in Spanish, French, and American Sign Language. They are ushers at the various Eucharistic services. They man the registration desks and information booth. They keep an eye out and help with various security needs.

There are many places to serve. They are needed in the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops. They assist at the ECW Triennial meeting and with the Youth as they build Gordon's House. They work with those who have Special Needs, as well as in Public Safety and at the Print Shop.

Two volunteers have been serving since General Convention last met in Anaheim in 1985. Since then Nancy Segar from the Dakotas and The Rev. Paul Lawson from California have travelled to Detroit in 1988, Phoenix in 1991, Indianapolis in 1994, Philadelphia in 1997, Denver in 2000, Minneapolis in 2003, and Columbus in 2006.

When Convention meets again in Indianapolis in Twenty-twelve, the Corps of Volunteers will be there. Many of whom are walking the walls and byways of the Anaheim Convention Center today.

----Mary Ann Mueller is a journalist living in Texas. She is a regular contributor to VirtueOnline

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