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Germantown woman named Volunteer of the Year by Mequon nonprofit

Aug. 12, 2013

Germantown — Every year hundreds of people volunteer to put on a weekend's worth of entertainment at Gathering on the Green in Mequon. This year, one volunteer stood out above the rest.

Germantown resident Joan Greethurst was given the Ben Barkin Volunteer of the Year Award for all the time and effort she has given helping the Mequon-based nonprofit host its annual summer event.

Gathering on the Green is a weekend festival that promotes the performing arts by hosting a variety of entertainment from ballet to opera. It brings about 10,000 people to Mequon-Thiensville Rotary Park each year, GOG Executive Director Beth Bauer said.

Making the wheels turn

Without volunteers the event would not be possible as GOG has only two part-time employees, Bauer said.

The 400 volunteers make sure the event goes off without a hitch, transforming an empty field into a temporary outdoor concert venue. Volunteers set up and number about 4,000 chairs, sell tickets, usher guests and direct cars to parking.

At the center of the activity for the last decade has been Greethurst, who has worn numerous hats through the years.

"To be selected as volunteer of the year is quite an honor," Bauer said. "It's really a community organization so it's really important to recognize people like Joan."

To receive the Ben Barkin award, an individual needs to not only be a dedicated Gathering volunteer, but an active member of the community. Greethurst easily meets these requirements, giving of her time to Germantown and surrounding communities. As a retired elementary teacher, she regularly uses her teaching skills as a STEP volunteer at Amy Belle Elementary, assisting children and teachers with weekly learning activities.

In addition, Greethurst volunteers as an usher at the Schauer Center in Hartford, works as a voting inspector in Germantown whenever she is needed, spends time helping at church events and volunteers for the MS walk in Milwaukee. She said volunteerism is a way to continue her task of life-long learning.

Enrichment through volunteerism

"If you want life to be as enriching as you want it to be, you have to have the volunteer spirit," Greethurst said.

Gathering on the Green has been around since 1995. Greethurst plans to volunteer as long as she is able.

"I think you become a more enriched and better person if you volunteer, and there are always benefits that come your way," she said, commenting on the numerous people and friends she has met through her volunteer work.

Greethurst started volunteering at the Gathering in 2003, working as a greeter at Concordia University, where guest parking was provided. In 2006, she was named chair set-up leader, a simple-sounding task that ended up requiring three days and a lot of manpower. Her initial reaction to the appointment was "this will be a challenge," but with help of volunteer students from Homestead High School, thousands of chairs were unstacked, labeled and configured in the correct position.

Greethurst has since retired as chair leader. She now serves as the usher leader, a role she had at this year's festivities in July.

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