Volunteers from the wider Whistler community are continuing to provide the backbone of Maurice Young Millennium Place (MY Place) in its busy first opening weeks, by helping to run everything from the selling of tickets to clean-up operations.
MY Place staff say thousands of people have been through the new centre since it opened on June 17 on viewing tours or to attend the series of performances being showcased there until the end of the month.
Rena Todd, a volunteer involved with Millennium Place since the outset, says she is amazed at the high number of people wanting to help. And she says they range from older retired residents to young families who own time-share units.
"I first got involved after seeing an ad in the paper asking for volunteers to help with gardening at Millennium Place before it was even built," she says. "At that time around 30 people signed up but now there are close to 50 volunteers actively involved and at least 100 on a contact help list. People obviously feel a strong sense of ownership with the place."
Todd has been helping co-ordinate volunteers during the current opening ceremony celebrations that run until June 30. She says volunteers have been selling tickets and beverages, ushering, operating the coat check and generally helping out in all areas. However she says once this busy period is over, the goal is to formally establish a volunteer team for the centre.
Administrator Lynn Mathews says Millennium Place has been founded on a legacy of volunteerism and she hopes the high level of commitment will remain.
"During my thank-you speech on the first night I told the volunteers to please not regard this as a retirement party," she laughs. "A lot of people mistakenly think MY Place is funded by the municipality, which did donate a generous grant of $350,000, but it is the rental of rooms that will keep the centre running."
Mathews says up until last September she was the only paid staff member and it was volunteers who built the foundations of Millennium Place. Bookings of rooms are starting to come on-stream and should start to build, adds Mathews.
"Unfortunately we lost a few bookings because we were very hesitant to confirm spaces in case there were further delays with the construction, but now we are open for business." She says church retreat groups from Washington and the Lower Mainland are expected to sign up for room rental, along with various arts and dance groups.
Mathews says public feedback on the centre has been enthusiastic, with many people surprised at the quality features of Millennium Place. "I get the same comment over and over again from people who hadnt realized what the building was for and all that it now offers with the teen centre and theatre especially," she says.
Some visitors have reportedly been so impressed they have given substantial financial donations after touring the building. Stephen Milstein, the chair of the Millennium Place board of directors, says: "This past week a single donation of $100,000 has come in from Mr. Larry Houghton, as well as several smaller contributions." He says a further $1.7 million is required to meet Millennium Places building and operations budgets, in addition to the $5.8 million already raised.
Any interested volunteers for Millennium Place can telephone 935 8410.