CHARLOTTE, N.C. All week they’d worked the biggest party in town.
On Friday, the day after the Democratic National Convention ended, they went to one last fling – this time for themselves.
The Charlotte in 2012 Convention Host Committee held a volunteer appreciation event on the Levine Avenue of the Arts between the Bechtler and Mint museums in uptown. A spokesman with the Democratic National Convention Committee said more than 10,000 individuals were credentialed as volunteers during the convention.
From 4 until 8 p.m., hundreds of volunteers danced to a live band, ate hamburgers and corndogs, enjoyed free admission to the museums and listened to speakers praise their efforts. “You made the event the success it was,” Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx told the crowd. “We’re really proud of you.”
He recalled earlier that day, when saying goodbye to the president and first lady, they’d said “thank you Charlotte for being so hospitable to our family, friends and convention.”
Dr. Dan Murrey, executive director of the Charlotte in 2012 Convention Host Committee, told volunteers that the essence of hospitality is “allowing people to be themselves in your home.”
“That’s what we did this week,” he said. “…You were wonderful ambassadors of the city. You told our story for us…You sold the city to the rest of the world.”
Steve Kerrigan, CEO of the Democratic National Convention Committee, said the committee was “incredibly grateful” for what volunteers did during the convention. He described it as “a critical moment for the campaign.”
The DNC may have cleared out, but the spirit lingered Friday evening as volunteers came and went at the party.
Entertainment included the 14 Karat Gold Dance Band from Atlanta and the West Charlotte High School Marching Lions.
Giving back to community
Volunteer Donna Ludwig, 55, of Concord, was “still on a high” from the convention. She’d worked the big media party at the Music Factory, checked delegate credentials and served as a team captain. She’d put in 10-hour days and lost some sleep.
Looking back, she found the volunteer effort “well-orchestrated.” “I can’t think of anything I’d have done differently,” Ludwig said. “There was so much teamwork.”
Retired school principal Charlene Watson-Faulcon, 57, of Greensboro, volunteered “as a way of giving back to the community.”
“It’s been a fantastic week,” she said. “I’ve loved the enthusiasm.”
She said the decision to move Obama’s acceptance speech from Bank of America Stadium to Time Warner Cable Arena was a good call.
“I didn’t want all those people rained on,” Watson-Faulcon said. “This was a joyous occasion.”
Karen Irby, 48, of Greenville, S.C., was a greeter at the convention center. Originally, she was scheduled to work the arena Wednesday night, but that fell through. “They had too many (volunteers),” she said. “But they managed the best they could. I have no complaints. I enjoyed everything. This was my first convention and it was a wonderful learning experience. I’m looking forward to the next one.”
Although Nahiem Hood, 37, of Charlotte loved his work as a hospitality volunteer, he was “very disappointed” at the cancellation of the stadium event. And he found the coordination of volunteer work a little lacking. “I give it a C,” Hood said.
‘I had a ball’
Donna Bice, 48, of Mooresville, was a greeter at Charlotte Douglas International Airport and got to meet senators, TV celebrities and reporters like Lynn Sweet with the Chicago Sun-Times.
“I had a ball,” said Bice, an executive recruiter for banks. “I enjoyed it so much. It united Charlotte, it felt like. Everybody was together – one family, working toward the common goal of a future for our children.”
Pamela Hemphill of Charlotte is a veteran volunteer, starting a year ago with the Charlotte in 2012.
During the DNC, she worked with credentials and was a troubleshooter at the arena. Overall, she found everything “very well run.”
“It’s been a wonderful week,” Hemphill said. “I wanted to be involved in this. I truly believe in the Democratic process.”
While the party-goers were still feeling adrenaline from the DNC, things were beginning to catch up with them. One man commented: “I’m going home and sleep for three days.”