Kimberly Shorter at the Bromo Seltzer Arts Tower, Photo by Megapixels Media

The Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts (BOPA) celebrates volunteer contributions during National Volunteer Week, Sunday, April 7 through Saturday, April 13, 2019. Established in 1974, National Volunteer Week praises individuals who have given their time and service to communities. This week, BOPA joins organizations globally by sharing stories from veteran volunteers. Visit National Volunteer Week’s website to learn more:

Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts: How did you get started volunteering for BOPA?

Kimberly Shorter: I started with Artscape 2008. I wanted to step out of my comfort zone and do something that I’ve never done before. I thought Artscape would be a great opportunity to do that, meet some new people, be part of the city’s excitement and be part of something great. My first assignment – I will never forget – was at the Baltimore Theatre Project. I was supposed to hand out programs, but then I was moved outside where it was 107 degrees.

My assignment changed, but I’m like, “Okay, I’m going to roll with it.” Then they told me, “We will send out someone to relieve you,” but they never did. I stood out there for my whole shift. It was still a great experience.

BOPA: How did you transition to volunteering for social media at BOPA festivals?

KS: I can’t remember what year, but Mitch Case was there at the time BOPA wanted to start a Tweet Team. So I said, “Okay, I’ll do it. Give it a shot.” I had been on Twitter a little bit and it’s like, “Oh cool, I can still volunteer and tweet about it.”

I fell in love with it. Being that I’m a creative and a writer, I love to tell stories. Being able to tell stories through Twitter was just a perfect fit for me.

BOPA: With so many volunteer opportunities available, why do you choose BOPA for your service?

KS: Honestly, BOPA makes me feel like family. I know there is a delineation between being staff and being a volunteer, but it feels like a family. I just love that BOPA puts on festivals for the city, for the state and for the region. It’s an opportunity to see people from all different walks of life, interacting and enjoying themselves.

BOPA: What is it like to volunteer at a BOPA event?

KS: It’s a lot of work, but it’s a lot of fun. I would tell somebody that wanted to volunteer for the first time to definitely prepare themselves – physically and mentally. Being a social media volunteer, I’m running to and from; I’m covering zones; I’m covering whole areas of the festival. It’s physically taxing. Leading up to it, I prepare myself by getting rest and staying hydrated especially during the outdoor events. Also, you have to take yourself out of the equation. You have to remember that as a volunteer, you are helping to make sure that attendees have a great time.

BOPA: Do you have any memorable moments from volunteering at a BOPA event?

KS: I know that Artscape 2015 after the uprising was very poignant for me. One of the most memorable moments for me was seeing Bmore Fit Academy leading the parade down Mt. Royal Avenue. They were dancing to Walk the Moon’s “Shut Up and Dance” and you saw older people, younger people, people with strollers, people carrying their babies in their arms, people from literally all walks of life having a really good time.

Another memorable moment is from Light City 2017 with Biz Markie. I saw all these photographers and videographers on the stage I said, “Well, I’ll do that too.” I got on the stage and worked my way to the point where I got a great angle of Biz Markie doing his thing. Next thing I know, security tapped me on the shoulder and was like, “You’ve been on the stage long enough. You got to go.” I like to tell people that I had the chance to share the stage with Biz Markie. 

I also got to cover April Ryan in the Literary Salon at the Baltimore Book Festival 2018. It was a moment of pride to see someone from Baltimore who is still very much a part of the city’s fabric at the Book Festival, not only to come home to share her story and talk about her book, but to uplift Baltimore and give us some love.

BOPA: Why is volunteerism important to you?

KS: I was raised to always give back – to give my talents, my gifts and not to be selfish by holding on to them. I love being able to give back in meaningful ways and collaborate with organizations, causes and initiatives that align with my purpose. Sometimes, I may be assigned to cover an event for social media and I may be needed in another area. It doesn’t matter to me because I’m still helping to create this experience to make sure that people have a great time and/or to help tell the story of Artscape and Baltimore Book Festival / Light City.

BOPA: What do you do when you are not volunteering?

KS: Currently, I am am working on communications for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ Office of Minority Health. Additionally, I’m a writer and I’m finishing up edits on my first novel that’s coming out. When Tayari Jones spoke at Baltimore Book Festival 2018 about An American Marriage, she gave me some awesome advice. On top of all that, I’m one of the four co-hosts of Le Dîner en Blanc Baltimore.

BOPA: What would you like for others to know about volunteering?

KS: It’s work, but it’s fun work. I would highly encourage people – especially if you’re on the social media team – to do your homework. This is not your typical volunteer situation where you’re going into a soup kitchen or to a school to help out. This is much different. I would advise people to research the artists, authors and exhibits so you can know what you’re walking into beforehand. I also highly encourage people to attend a volunteer walk-through before the festival so you’re not coming into it blind on the day of your shift. As volunteers, we may have our assignments, but to attendees, they’re not going to know if I’m on the social media team. They see me in a volunteer shirt, they’re going to ask me a question. I want to make sure that anybody that interacts gets what they need or gets pointed in the right direction.

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