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Leisure Services

Posted on: April 10, 2019

Docents and Cultural Arts Support Team celebrated during National Volunteer Week

Leisure Services volunteers

COOKEVILLE – “You’re a dough-what?”

As a docent at the Cookeville History Museum, Rex Bennett gets that question a lot. And he doesn’t mind explaining. In fact, he delights in the opportunity to tell about his passion for volunteering and why museums are important in the community.

“I love it when parents and grandparents bring their children in for a tour,” he said. “Nothing makes my heart swell with pride more than hearing an adult tell a young person that the history of our town is also their history and that it is vitally important to learn where we’ve come from.”

Bennett isn’t the only one who feels that way.

Linda Henderson, who became a docent in 2008 after retiring and moving to Cookeville from Florida, said she’s had “so many wonderful and interesting experiences” at the Cookeville History Museum.

“I knew nothing about this area, but I sure learned fast from our museum staff, the research I have done and the wonderful visitors who were more than willing to share with me,” she said.

Bennett and Henderson are among a couple dozen docents who volunteer at the Cookeville History Museum or Cookeville Depot Museum, both of which are managed by Beth Thompson of the City of Cookeville’s Leisure Services Department.

A host of other volunteers lend their talents to another Leisure Services organization, Cultural Arts Support Team, also known as C.A.S.T., under the supervision of Kim Frick-Welker of the Cookeville Performing Arts Center.

Thompson and Frick-Welker can’t emphasize enough their appreciation for all the volunteers and their contributions. They especially wanted to give due recognition during National Volunteer Week, April 7-13. They encourage others to do the same.

“Our dedicated volunteer army of museum docents is a vital part of our city museums,” Thompson said. “Having two museum facilities that host over 20,000 visitors a year, our docents are often the face of our museums and ambassadors of our town. If it weren’t for our docents and their commitment to our organization, museum staff would not have time for many of the programs, events and exhibits that we offer.”

Frick-Welker said C.A.S.T. volunteers greet more than 25,000 patrons each year at CPAC as well as assist behind the scenes with Leisure Services’ award-winning Backstage Series and Shakespeare in the Park productions.

“We simply could not do what we do without the wide range of talent, expertise and assistance of phenomenal individuals who give of their time to support the arts, some of whom have been with us for 20 to 30 years,” she said. “It is my sincere hope that every patron and every guest will take a moment to thank volunteers who ensure a strong and vibrant cultural arts community in Cookeville.”

One of those volunteers is Linda Youmans.

“I was bitten by the theatre bug when I was in school, so it was a natural thing for me to join C.A.S.T. in 1991,” said Youmans, who is also a history buff and has volunteered at both museums for many years. “I am grateful to Leisure Services for providing me a way to enjoy two of my passions while giving back to my community.”

Randi Finger, another C.A.S.T. member, was introduced to the magic of theatre in 2006 during the Cookeville Children’s Theatre production of “The Wizard of Oz,” directed by Frick-Welker.

“In the thespian world I found a group of people who saw value in everyone who wanted to join them,” she said. “I have worked backstage for many productions and get great joy from them all.”

Frick-Welker pointed out that C.A.S.T. includes people of all ages – not just retirees with a lot of free time.

“That’s a misconception,” she said. “The majority of our volunteers have full-time jobs and/or are students at Tennessee Tech University and Cookeville High School, so it’s quite remarkable that they’re willing to donate what little free time they have to assist us.”

Museum docents attract a wide range of ages and backgrounds as well.

Bennett, 38, works full-time as education director at Lane Motor Museum in Nashville but spends most of his Saturdays at the Cookeville History Museum, carefully scanning and labeling old postcards of Cookeville and the surrounding area.

“Museums are typically a ‘don’t touch’ environment,” he said. “I find myself privileged to be able to hold, touch and examine the documents and photographs.”

Sometimes, special events and activities take docents outside of the museum – like during Pioneer Day, Night at the Museums and the Cookeville Cemetery Walk.

Henderson enjoys the variety.

“Besides greeting visitors, I have been involved with portraying ladies from various eras of Cookeville history,” she said.

Anyone interested in learning more about volunteer opportunities with Cookeville Leisure Services may call Thompson at 528-8570 or Frick-Welker at 528-1313.

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