Danielle E. Boveland first became aware of the Young Leadership Council (YLC) through their “Wednesdays at the Square” summer concert series. She decided to attend a “Jumpstart” meeting, which the YLC hosts on the second Tuesday of every month for new and potential members to get a feel for the different projects. At one point, the YLC Membership Coordinator mentioned that Volunteer in the Arts (VITA) might be phased out because no one had yet volunteered to take over as project leader. Boveland was extremely disappointed, since VITA was the project that she was primarily interested in; another new member sitting in her row, Shannon Williams, felt the same. They were two of the newest members, “fresh as wet paint and inexperienced with the organization, but we were both so taken with the idea of VITA that we could not let it go,” Boveland says. She and Williams volunteered as co-project leaders and worked together for over a year before Williams took a new job in Florida. Boveland has led the project since.
VITA, as Boveland and Williams shaped it, coordinates volunteers for arts-based events throughout New Orleans. VITA allows young professionals, who may not otherwise attend these events, a chance to experience them as volunteers. The VITA project leader works with event coordinators to identify and promote an average of two volunteer opportunities per month. Volunteer opportunities are publicized through the VITA listserv, and each event listing includes an email address or webpage through which volunteers can sign up. VITA is a popular project for new YLC members, as it gives volunteers an easy, fun way to get involved. Volunteers complete a range of duties, from setting up decorations to checking coats at a gala to serving beer at festivals. However, VITA’s biggest appeal is also its greatest challenge: finding interesting new volunteer opportunities each month. Many VITA volunteers are young professionals whose schedules may not allow a long volunteer commitment. VITA is a great fit for them, providing volunteer opportunities for one-time or annual events that only require one evening of service.
Boveland claims that the most rewarding aspect of working with VITA has been a deeper knowledge and admiration for the city’s social experience, especially the vast and varied arts scene. New Orleans hosts art walks, fundraising galas, craft cocktail samplings and fashion shows, among other events. As a volunteer-driven organization, VITA as just one of many YLC projects, encourages others to jump aboard – individuals who would like to sign up can attend a Jumpstart meeting or visit the YLC’s website, YLCNola.org.
Organizations that are interested in having their volunteer opportunities included on the VITA listserv can contact Boveland with a description of their event, a list of volunteer duties and the volunteer coordinator’s contact information.