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10 October 2013

Spotlight Series: Events Committee

Seated front: Therese Hart-Pignotti, Jane Lindsey, Geri Willinger. Standing back: Rich Kehoe, Debbie Mascot, Ron Madson, Sandy Fryer, Lynne Dory, Linda Okazaki, Todd Armstrong, Diana Edwards

“Awesome.” “Committed.” “Efficient but fun.” This is how the members of the Events Committee describe their team. For anyone not familiar with their work, the Events Committee is responsible for planning all in-house classes and workshops – everything from picking topics, arranging speakers, obtaining speaker photos, biographies and lecture handouts, setting up online registration, sending reminders and follow-up evaluations, and setting up the classroom on the day of the event. They arrange the field trips to archives and libraries and other places of local interest for genealogists. The committee also oversees our Special Events and Tours, for example the research trip to Family History Library in Salt Lake City. These are the primary fund-raisers for the society which pay the lion’s share of the rent for the library.

This amazing diversity of efforts on behalf of the organization is accomplished by a fairly small group of members who make this their way of giving back. Committee member Debbie Mascot exemplifies this point of view, “I find that I get more out of a society if I put more in. It’s my way to give back just a little and show how much I value CGS.”

The Events Committee members are: Diana Edwards (membership liaison), Lynne Dory (Saturday in-house events), Rich Kehoe (both Saturday events and maintaining the calendar), Debbie Mascot (fliers), Jane Lindsey, Sandy Fryer, Geri Willinger (field trips), Therese Hart-Pignotti, and Erin Kelleher-Wees (registration, reminders, evaluations, etc. for special events and tours – with Tim Cox as consultant).

One of the most important roles of the committee is creating the public ‘face’ of our organization. The committee works between the membership and the public to bring them together in a way that enhances knowledge and familiarizes the larger community both about the society and about genealogy. People who otherwise would never have heard of the California Genealogical Society not only discover its existence but get an immediate demonstration of the value of belonging to this organization. Members of the public who come to events at the library or to Special Events such as Ancestry Day not only discover that there is a local association of people who share their interests in genealogy but also that CGS offers them the benefits of being part of an active organization dedicated to enhancing the skills of its membership. Committee member Sandy Fryer says: “Events are a big draw for people joining CGS. It is satisfying to work on something that members are so interested in.”

This year’s upcoming special events are a great example of outreach to the public. Here is a barebones look at each event and the people responsible for them in order of their appearance. And don’t forget that this list of committee members is truly the tip of the iceberg; dozens more volunteer their time to make these events a success.

Their Roots Are Showing! [October 26, 2013 at the Del Valle Theater in Walnut Creek]: Therese Hart-Pignotti (Chair), Shannon Reese, Kathie Jones, Linda Okazaki, Rich Kehoe, Ellen Fernandez-Sacco, Todd Armstrong and a group of researchers. In the manner of the TV show Who Do You Think You Are, three Bay Area celebrities will learn about their family history, members will be on hand to answer questions, and a Silent Auction will be held.

Ancestry Day San Francisco [November 9, 2013 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in San Francisco]: Jane Lindsey (Chair), Kathleen Beitiks and Tim Cox (co-Chairs); Cathy Paris, syllabus lay-out. An exciting day of genealogy filled with lectures and presentations as well as a chance to hear advice from the experts.

You will hear a lot more about these events in the coming weeks but, if you’re like most people, you won’t think about the amount of planning and behind-the-scenes work that goes into producing even one of these events. By the way, if you did stop and think about the backstage work, and you felt really excited about doing this kind of work, then the Events Committee would like to hear from you right away! However, even if taking on the organization and planning of a major event isn’t your cup of tea, Committee Chair Jane Lindsey makes sure that all committee members have a role that is manageable. She says “People find that when they are able to give, even just a little bit of their time, they get an amazing amount back. They feel more connected to the organization and freer to ask questions. They realize they are part of a bigger organization. I have tried hard to find manageable jobs for people who are interested in helping but work full time or have other heavy commitments.“ Debbie Mascot wholeheartedly agrees: “When Jane asked me to help with fliers, I realized that despite my full time work, my two young children, and all my other volunteer work, that this was something I actually could do. I am thankful to Jane for finding a spot for me at CGS.”

Besides the Special Events, the regular Saturday in-house classes and presentations offer numerous opportunities for members to increase their skills in genealogical research and to hear from experts about topics of interest to them. Most classes are free to members but cost a $20 fee for non-members. Jane reports that she has heard people saying to non-members that they really should join CGS; “they have such great classes available FREE to members.” Lynne Dory, a fairly new member and one of the organizers of the Saturday classes, says: “I like volunteering because I meet new people who share a love of genealogy. I get to exercise my brain in doing things outside my normal sphere of activity. I get to participate in the events we produce. I get to give back and make a difference. I enjoy being part of a team.”

When asked if there was anything unique about the people who volunteer for the Events Committee, Jane said: “I’m not sure there are any unique characteristics. Some people are outgoing, others are organized and efficient, and still others are creative. I think each member brings something helpful to the committee and they all mesh together to make a good committee.” Members’ reasons for joining are varied but there is a common thread of wanting to give back, to meet new people and to learn from the experience.

Planning for 2014 will be underway shortly and there are lots of opportunities for anyone who would like to experience the satisfaction of being part of this enthusiastic working group. The group makes it as easy as possible to participate by holding regular monthly meetings by phone. Email Jane Lindsey to get started.

Photograph courtesy of Jane Knowles Lindsey, 9/12/2013.

Copyright © 2013 by Marie Trelevean, California Genealogical Society and Library.