When Jean Hage took over as Guild Convenor of The Knox Church Guild two years ago it was with one condition: that Debbie Campbell join her in the job. And so it came to be.
“It’s been great working with Debbie,” said Jean. “She’s the Ying to my Yang. I’ll blast off with some idea and then Debbie will sensibly go over it and make suggestions.” Jean got into the job by first being a table convenor at the fall Harvest Bazaar. From there she progressed to Bazaar convenor and then on to co-running the whole Guild.
Debbie Campbell had volunteered with Guild-related activities since the 1980’s but never actually joined the executive until a former Guild member got up in church one Sunday and made an impassioned plea for people to step forward and take part.
“So I volunteered,” she said. She and Jean worked on several projects together, organizing dinners and events. “We worked well together,” she said, “always on the same page.”
The Guild, for those who don’t know, is the fundraising and fellowship arm of the church. The Spring cleanup? That’s run by the Guild and carried out by its volunteers. The Book and Bake Sale? Guild. The September Welcome Back Lunch? Guild. The Harvest Bazaar? Last year’s Moderator’s lunch? The Anniversary Dinner? Guild Guild Guild.
At one time in the history of Knox, the Guild was so big it was broken up into groups responsible for different activities. It was also all women. By the 1990’s though, the congregation was changing and it was becoming difficult to enrol new members. In 2002 the Guild was formally dissolved and re-created as a small “gender neutral” group that would not be responsible for “doing” everything, but for setting in motion projects that volunteers would carry out.
That’s nice in theory, but it’s the part about the volunteers that’s the tricky bit.
“The fundraising and fellowship problem remains finding enough active people to take on those jobs,” said Jean.
Last year’s spring cleanup was only partly completed because there weren’t enough volunteers to take part. And it’s usually the same group of people who come forward to help. “We need a better system to get people to pitch in,” said Jean.
That goes for the Guild itself. Only seven men and women sit on the executive and Jean and Debbie would like more people with new ideas and initiative. “There’s never been a stampede of people to help with the Guild,” said Jean.
“But maybe” said Debbie. “That’s the way things are. We just have to hand pick people and approach them. Fortunately there are people who are not on the Guild but who are willing to help out.”
On the positive side, while Jean and Debbie worry about recruiting convenors to run the various tables at the Bazaar, people usually come through. And the Bazaar has made a lot more money in recent years thanks to new ideas from volunteers, like the silent auction and last year’s wine raffle.
“People like working on the Bazaar because it’s a social thing,” said Jean. Something like the spring cleanup? Not so much.
This year of course, the pandemic has put the brakes on Guild activities. The Harvest Bazaar, the biggest fundraiser of the year is cancelled. Trivia Night was abandoned. Spring will go by without the Book and Bake Sale. And the refurbishment of the Parlour is in limbo with the new furniture the Guild bought sitting in a warehouse undelivered. In a normal year, they would already be working towards the fall Bazaar, and other things they would be planning right now aren’t happening. “The pandemic has turned everything upside down,” said Jean.
“We don’t know when we’ll be able to have activities with groups of people,” said Debbie. “There are so many question marks.”
At some point, the pandemic will end, and the work of the Guild will ramp up again (perhaps even affected and altered because of COVID19), and when it does, Jean or Debbie or some other member of the Guild will come looking for volunteers. It will be a good opportunity for future Guild members to say yes, and get involved.
Because to quote our Guild Convenor Tag Team, “It’s not just a handful of people who are responsible for church activities. It’s all of us.”
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