West Windsor Arts Council Honors their Volunteers

National Volunteer Week April 19 – 25, 2020

Princeton Junction, NJ (April 17, 2020) – It’s National Volunteer Week, and this year the value and importance of those who give of their time to help others has an added resonance as the world suffers from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. From those on the front lines, to those helping their local communities, recognizing the work of volunteers is perhaps more important than ever.

Over 135 dedicated and energetic individuals make up the volunteer roles at the West Windsor Arts Council. These folks share their time and skills in service of transforming the world around us through the arts. WWAC volunteers help in many ways from organizing and running exhibitions, to event support, fundraising, serving on advisory committees, and by providing leadership through board membership. Day in and day out, each individual’s contributions are greatly appreciated and valued.

The most recent volunteer project at WWAC is to make masks for medical support staff dealing with COVID-19. Called the “WWArts 1000 Mask Donation,” the organization’s volunteers, many of whom are artists and craftspeople, will make masks to be distributed in partnership with the local group “The Mercer Mask Project.” More information about the project is available on the organization’s website www.westwindsorarts.org.

As part of National Volunteer Week, the West Windsor Arts Council is also honoring five very dedicated individuals who went above and beyond in service this past year, awarding them the Volunteers of the Year award.  Chris Mittendorf of Plainsboro and Maureen Connolly-Hersh of West Windsor are recognized for their high-level commitment to both the arts and to the community. High school students Zia Ostawal, Julia Kundu and Anika Kapoor are recognized for the hours they have given to the Arts Council and for their steadfast readiness to help.

Chris Mittendorf attended his first Exhibition Committee meeting in February of 2019 and it has been full throttle ever since. He immediately stepped up to be the chairperson for the 2019 STEAM Series Art Show: Math and Art, doing everything from writing the prospectus and press release, to helping with the hanging of the show, and hosting the reception. Since then, he has volunteered at many other exhibitions, including the Off the Wall Affordable Art Show. Chris has recently shown his commitment by taking a leadership role on the art auction committee during planning for the 2020 Blank Canvas Gala and Art Auction. He has even come to the rescue for everyday help like stage setup! Chris’s contributions have been vital to the success of WWAC’s programs over the past year making him an extremely valued member of its volunteer team.

Maureen Connolly-Hersh has been a volunteer with the West Windsor Arts Council since 2018. In the past year, she has served on committees to plan the first ArtWalk in 2019 and for the 2020 Blank Canvas Gala and Art Auction. For the ArtWalk, Maureen designed a lawn sign art scavenger hunt and involved her family in special ways. Her mother dressed up as Van Gogh’s mother and handed out prizes for the walkers. Her six-year-old daughter, Anna dressed as Banksy’s “Girl with Red Balloon” and led groups on the walk three times!  For the 2020 Blank Canvas Gala and Art Auction, Maureen conceptualized and implemented a new feature to invite middle and high school artists to contribute their work to raise money for arts scholarships. In addition, for the past two years, Maureen has been part of the MLK Day of Service through her connections with WWAC and the WW Human Relations Council. She has helped to secure engaging speakers, developed a read aloud based on a picture book about MLK, organized donations, and created a photo booth setup at which attendees took pictures while holding signs on which they had written their dreams for a better world. When asked about her service, Maureen says, “Working with the WWAC has been gratifying and invigorating. I leave meetings inspired by all involved and eager to take next steps.”

Zia Ostawal, a sophomore at West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North, has volunteered over 75 hours since the spring of 2019.  Whenever the Arts Center needs a student to help, she is always ready, willing and able to assist.  Zia has helped at fundraisers, art exhibitions, theater classes, summer camp, many events including Winter Warm Up, and most recently at the first Tin Ceiling Presents concert.  Zia says that the most valuable skill she has learned by volunteering at WWAC, “ is to talk to people. Before volunteering I was very shy and it was hard for me to talk and get to know people, nevertheless talk to strangers about WWAC. But now I am very confident in my communication skills and can use this in many different capacities.”

Julia Kundu, a sophomore at West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North, started as a volunteer in the summer of 2019.  She was a part of the Summer Friday Afternoon Crew and also helped at various events including art show receptions, performance of the Out of this World Performance Troupe, Winter Warm Up, Artisan Market, Autumn Arts Afternoon, Food Truck Festival and assisted at birthday parties.  Julia’s most memorable volunteer opportunity was, “running the alien bobble head making stall at the WW Food Truck Festival. Us volunteers contributed to the idea for the project, and we were given the responsibility to be in charge of it. It turned out to be quite popular with the kids at the festival. I was delighted to interact with the children, listen to their amusing stories and guide them through an activity that they had so much fun doing.” 

Anika Kapoor, a junior at West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South, began volunteering in July of 2019 and quickly became a regular at WWAC events.  She has helped at art show receptions, open houses, the art project table at the Food Truck Festival, the Summer Friday Afternoon Crew, and the summer camp aftercare program.  Anika states, “Volunteering at WWAC has definitely improved my interpersonal skills, from working with younger kids in summer camps, to collaborating with other volunteers, to talking with local artists at art shows. Volunteering also strengthened my understanding of why art is important in our community, and how so many inspiring works of art can be found right here in West Windsor.”

West Windsor Arts Center sends a sincere thank you to Chris Mittendorf, Maureen Connolly-Hersh, Zia Ostawal, Julia Kundu, Anika Kapoor, and all our volunteers for sharing their talents with West Windsor Arts Council and welcomes members of the community to join this vital team. For more information, visit www.westwindsorarts.org/volunteer.