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WCC Presents Checks to MerleFest 25 Volunteer Organizations; Volunteer Groups Earned Nearly $400,000

WCC Presents Checks to MerleFest 25 Volunteer Organizations

Representatives from MerleFest volunteer organizations gather to receive checks and share how their organization will use the monies raised.

May 10, 2012. Wilkesboro – Wilkes Community College presented checks to its MerleFest volunteer organizations on Tuesday, May 8, at the Watson Stage. The volunteer groups shared information on the number of volunteers who worked at the four-day music festival and the number of hours contributed.
“We cannot thank our MerleFest volunteer groups enough,” said Debbie Cangiolosi, volunteer group coordinator for MerleFest. “They are involved in so many areas of MerleFest, including before, during, and after the festival. Their efforts help to ensure a successful festival year after year and we appreciate their time and energy so much.”
The volunteer organizations represented at this year’s festival were:
Boy Scout Troops 301, 325, 333, 335, 340, 343, 399, 658 – Shuttle bus and van transportation; Information Booth; Pre-paid parking; Brown Lot and Green Lot parking; Pond Road traffic management
CareNet Counseling of Wilkes, Inc. – Overnight Storage and Lost & Found
Celebration Church – Cooler Check
Champion Fire Department – Blue Lot parking
Communities in Schools – Little Picker’s Area face painting and Little Picker’s Area afternoon shift
Cub Scout Pack 399 – R&R Tent
Delta Kappa Gamma – Flattop Lot parking
Eckerd of Boomer – Reserved Seating daily cleaning
Explorers 4-H Club – Little Picker’s Area bead art
Herbert Bell Shaw Lodge – Site cleanup and Festival Check-In parking
National Foundation for Ectodermal Dysplasias – Autograph Tents
North Wilkesboro Masonic Lodge – Volunteer Lot and Lucky Dollar Lot parking
North Wilkesboro Rotary Club – MerleFest Mall artist sales
Speedway Road Ruritan Club – Box Office sales and wristband distribution
Steel Magnolias – MerleFest Gift Shop
WCC Access Ability Awareness Club – Flattop (mascot raccoon)
WCC Basic Skills – Festival Check-In
WCC Clubs – WCC Beverage and Food sales
WCC Continuing Education – Patron Customer Service
WCC Culinary Club – Chamber Night catering
WCC Early Childhood Development – Little Picker’s Area management and morning shift
WCC Human Services Club – MerleFest Souvenirs
WCC Nursing Club – Media Room
WCC Science and Technologies Club – Artist and Staff transportation
WCC Student Government Association – Austin Stage and MerleFest Contests
Wilkes Acoustic Folk Society – Pickin’ Place
Wilkes Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing – Volunteer Check-In
Wilkes Chamber of Commerce – Access gates
Wilkes County Recreation Department – River’s Edge Camping
Wilkes Vocational Services – Handicapped Parking and Transportation
Wilkesboro Volunteer Fire Department – Reserved Seating setup and breakdown
Women’s Service League of Wilkes – MerleFest Gift Shop management and sales

Each of these groups has a mission and has its own MerleFest stories to tell. For instance, Lynn Day has volunteered for MerleFest for over 17 years. Her group operates the Autograph Tent and is giving its monies to the National Foundation for Ectodermal Dysplasias to help fund support groups and research. Lynn’s four-year-old grandson, Sam, was born with this genetic disorder that affects as many as seven of every 10,000 babies born.
“MerleFest is a true family affair for my family,” says Day. “Both of my sons, Chris and Josh, volunteer as front-of-house managers for the Midnight Jam. And, Josh also performs with The Kruger Brothers. My husband volunteered at MerleFest for over 10 years before he passed away in 2003. And, we have other relatives, including my husband’s cousin Dan Day, who are equally involved in helping to make the festival a success.”
Another group that works diligently at MerleFest every year is Delta Kappa Gamma, a professional honorary society of women educators. Sharon Guenther heads up this volunteer group that runs the Flattop Lot. Guenther is the fundraising chair and past president for Delta Kappa Gamma.
The Flattop Lot is located beside Sagebrush Steakhouse, so it is the closest lot to the front gates of MerleFest. This group arrives at the lot at 7:30 a.m. and stays until 10:30 p.m. The festival pre-sells 110 four-day parking passes and leaves 35 daily parking spaces for Delta Kappa Gamma to sell. These spaces are sold on a first-come, first-served basis. And sometimes the daily spaces are sold several times during the day if someone leaves and says they will not return for the day.
“We have many returning customers year after year, and they tell us that this is their favorite place to park. They like the way we run things, keeping the parking lot clean and watching their cars during the day. And, they like knowing that their money is going to benefit education rather than going into the pocket of a private person collecting money,” says Guenther.
“We put all of our monies right back into educational scholarships. We contribute $1,000 annually to sponsor a New Centuries Scholar through the Communities in Schools program. Each of the Wilkes County middle schools identifies a sixth grader to be in the New Centuries Scholars program. When these students graduate high school, they earn this scholarship to attend Wilkes Community College. Since we are an education society, we feel this is a good use of our money that benefits our community and the students living here,” explains Guenther. “We also sponsor stipends and scholarships for teachers and teacher assistants who are working on education degrees.”
“MerleFest began as a fundraiser for Wilkes Community College and as a remembrance for Eddy Merle Watson,” explains festival director Ted Hagaman. “However, a key element of our mission is to serve as an economic catalyst in our region and community involvement is a hallmark of our history. Our partnership with college and local community groups allows the economic impact to reach even deeper into our communities. And, just as MerleFest helps the college achieve its goals, it also helps our partners achieve their missions to serve others.”
Indeed, MerleFest has a lasting impact on the region. While 2012 figures are not yet available, in 2011 MerleFest had 4,660 volunteers contribute more than 49,938 hours to help make the festival a success. The volunteer groups earned approximately $398,379 through their participation.
“All of our volunteer groups are non-profit entities that use their MerleFest compensation to benefit their association and the community,” explains Cangiolosi. “Under MerleFest contract and with guidelines for their specific responsibilities, groups are accountable for managing their areas, as well as providing and scheduling their own volunteers. The majority of our groups return year after year, and we have valuable working relationships with each one of them.”
MerleFest, founded in 1988 in memory of Eddy Merle Watson as a fundraiser for Wilkes Community College Endowment Corporation and a celebration of “traditional plus” music, was held April 26-29, 2012.
Wilkes Community College, a member of the North Carolina Community College System, is a public, two-year, open-door institution serving the people of Wilkes, Ashe and Alleghany counties and beyond.