For the love of community

Volunteers with the Downtown Camas Association help at First Fridays and other events

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On most First Fridays in downtown Camas, Carol Alice can be seen greeting visitors.

This month, her festive outfit at the Downtown Camas Association table, included a jumper that she made especially for the art-themed occasion. It featured images of paintings.

Alice, of Vancouver, has volunteered with the DCA for a year.

“I enjoy costuming and make theme-based hats for some of the volunteers,” she said. “They are usually outrageous and silly and add to the festive nature of the theme.”

Alice brought berets for herself and her friend, Kitty Hibbs.

“I am the art,” Alice said, while pointing to her outfit.

“I’m the artist,” Hibbs said.

“I’m the photographer,” said Susan Lehr.

She took photos of people who dropped by a selfie booth.

“I love it when they say, ‘I’ve never been here,'” Lehr said, regarding new visitors. “We get to step outside of ourselves and share in memory making moments.”

The First Friday of February 2014 was the first time she served as a volunteer. That has included setting up and cleaning up at events and helping with children’s activities.

Lehr has assisted with office work, outreach, coordination and research.

“I have also provided some consulting on board development and collateral work,” she said. “The DCA offers such wonderful opportunities to unite the community and strengthen downtown.”

Alice, 77, said her mother did a lot of volunteering, and she “caught” it from her.

She has volunteered for most of her life.

“I enjoy meeting and interacting with people,” Alice said. “It is a tremendous way to give back to the community.

“It is so much fun to be with families who are having fun,” she added.

Hibbs, the DCA volunteer coordinator and event promotions assistant, said additional volunteers are needed to set up and breakdown events and to help with planning.

“For larger events, we need help with data entry, miscellaneous errands, registration and raffle ticket sales,” she said.

Craft prep parties are held on the Wednesdays before First Fridays.

Hibbs said volunteers usually do not need much training. She and others can show them what to do if needed.

The DCA is a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization.

“Volunteers add a lot to our DCA events,” said DCA Executive Director Carrie Schulstad. “Our volunteers bring a fun vibe and add extra helpfulness for the people attending.”

There are other events, in addition to First Fridays. In the spring, volunteers are needed for the downtown cleanup and planting day.

Valerie Mouser volunteers and helps coordinate the vendors for the Camas Plant and Garden Fair.

The former DCA Volunteer of the Year said she spent 250 hours on that event.

“Valerie has a heart for working with the plant fair vendors and keeps all their information organized,” Schulstad said. “She works with everyone in a positive way and keeps everyone happy.”

Carla Edwards helps coordinate the Camas Car Show, as a volunteer. She and her husband, Jim, sponsor the pre-event activities in the Georgia Pacific car lot.

“They provide games and treats and a fun prize drawing,” Schulstad said. “They coordinate the parking of cars, which is a huge help, all with a smile and great attitudes.

“They are appreciated by all for their organization and follow-through,” she added.

Caroline Mercury is the DCA’s board president.

“I volunteer because I enjoy the feeling of making a difference, leaving things better than they were before,” she said. “To create programs, infrastructure and events that continue to make an impact on the community and the local economy is worth spending time and energy on.

There are challenges to volunteering.

“There is always more to be done,” Mercury said. “Many hands make light work. You need to be sensitive to what your volunteers are willing to do, but more importantly what they enjoy doing.

“It works best when you have a variety of jobs in manageable chunks that people can match their interests to,” she added. “Then they have fun, feel fulfilled and hopefully want to participate again.”

As a volunteer, Mercury is involved in public speaking, creating, designing and working at events, fund raising and attending the annual Main Street Conference.

As chairwoman of the DCA design committee, her efforts include paint color consultations and obtaining bronze art and street emblems — coming in 2016.

Mercury also collaborates with the city of Camas and the Camas-Washougal Chamber of Commerce.

“Working events can involve everything from shoveling bark dust to greeting visitors to ribbon cuttings.” she said.

Several men, including Doug Quinn, Greg Goforth, Roch Manley and Mark Klein, serve on the DCA board and also volunteer, as needed, at events.

The DCA “Light Brigade,” including Goforth, Quinn, Ken Navidi, Craig Schulstad and Clark Crawford, checks the lights along the tops of the buildings, replaces bulbs and installs new lights when merchants want them.

For additional information about volunteer opportunities with the DCA, contact Hibbs at events@downtowncamas.com or visit www.downtowncamas.com/dca/get-involved/.

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