As the year winds down, Republican National Convention planning is turning up. With only seven months to go until the big event, many members of the community - 3,800 to be exact - have stepped up to showcase their Cleveland pride to the 50,000 visitors that will travel to our region next July for the Convention.
In preparation, the Cleveland 2016 Host Committee, the non-profit, non-political corporation not affiliated with the Republican Party, is obligated to secure up to 8,000 volunteers. As the role of the Host Committee is to best represent the region during the Convention, those who volunteer on their behalf will be asked to do the same. In addition to serving as airport and hotel greeters, volunteers also will be asked to share with visitors their knowledge of our region and all there is to do here.
So why are volunteers so important? We sat down with the Host Committee to get their thoughts about the significant role that volunteers play in hosting this historic event in our beloved hometown.
Q. Why should an individual consider volunteering?
A. The last time a political convention was held in Cleveland was 80 years ago. Hosting this event provides the members of our community the opportunity to be part of something historic.
In addition to that, it's an opportunity to bring the community together to help change the narrative about our city -- around the world, yes, but also as significantly here at home. You never get a second chance to make a first impression, but we have been given the unique opportunity to introduce ourselves again to everyone and tell the new Cleveland story and show just how far we have come.
Q: Does volunteering for the Host Committee mean volunteering for a political party?
A. No. It’s important that residents understand that we do not have any affiliation whatsoever with any political party and are a separate nonprofit organization charged with fundraising and assembling the resources needed to serve as the perfect backdrop for the Republican National Convention. Our mission is to promote Northeast Ohio and ensure Cleveland is best represented while the eyes of the world will be focused on our city next July.
If residents can help us communicate this message and help others understand the opportunity that exists for our future, we will be in the best shape possible to put on an amazing event. We want everyone to feel welcome to participate regardless of political beliefs. This is about pride, not politics.
Q. How would you describe an ideal volunteer?
A. We are looking for a group of enthusiastic individuals who reflect the diversity and vibrancy of Northeast Ohio and are eager to share their passion about Cleveland as a great place to live, work and play.
In addition, we need people who can provide a warm welcome to the 50,000 visitors who are expected to travel to our region for the Convention. We know that these visitors will want to know about the communities in which they are staying -- the communities in which you live -- and we need to be able to rely on our volunteers to provide them with the information they are seeking and make it easy for them to get around and experience the diversity of the area and our neighborhoods.
Members of the Republican National Committee's site selection committee have stated that the deciding factor in unanimously selecting Cleveland as the Convention host city was a result of the outstanding reception by Clevelanders and the excitement residents showed in being a contender for such a high-profile event. Our goal is to have all of the visitors coming to the Convention feel welcomed and be able to share in the unique energy of our community.
Q. Do people have to come Downtown to volunteer?
A. We will need many of the volunteers to be staffed Downtown, because that area will be the hub of the Convention activity. However, we also need volunteers at the Cleveland and Akron-Canton airports, and in the more than 100 hotels throughout Northeast Ohio. Volunteers will greet visitors when they arrive and help them during their stay by providing information about the area. One of the benefits of the volunteer program is that individuals can volunteer in the communities in which they live and work. Not only is this convenient for the volunteers, but also it is advantageous to the visitors because they will be getting information from the experts in each community.
Q. What excites you about the planning that is going into hosting this event?
A. The passion of this community is absolutely contagious. I have been so impressed by the number of Clevelanders who have proactively reached out asking about how they can get involved in the event. We already have nearly 4,000 individuals who have registered to volunteer -- and that's without any formal recruitment effort. (Formal recruitment will kick off in January.)
It's exciting to me to watch the community come together during this period of revitalization to help change the narrative of Cleveland both here at home and around the world. We are so grateful for those who have already volunteered and are looking forward to working with all Northeast Ohio residents to put Cleveland on the map as the best host city ever.
Visit 2016cle.com/volunteer for more information.