Stephen Near


Volunteering for Art’s Sake

    He volunteers for the Hamilton & Region Arts Council. He volunteers for the Tivoli Theatre, for Theatre Aquarius, for Festival of Friends, the YMCA, the Library, the Art Gallery of Hamilton, and… well you get the idea. Maurice W. Rondeau has been called “Downtown’s Art Ambassador’ for all the work he does, gratis.

    “They say volunteers don’t get paid,” says Maurice - the bearer of good cheer and good news, “but I get paid in so many other ways. I’ve had organizations give me free tickets to shows. I’ve got a collection of T-shirts you wouldn’t believe. I go to events and get behind the scenes, cause I like to be where the action is, not to mention the hundreds of good people I meet in my walkabouts.”

    If you venture downtown Hamilton on any given Thursday you’ll probably cross paths with Maurice as he goes from theatre to gallery to office, handing out flyers, posters and brochures. His “walkabout” is his form of exercise (he figures he puts in 10 miles each day). “I got fed up hearing people say ‘I didn’t know this was going on’ so I had to find a way to touch base with different people and distribute what they were doing to a bunch of other people. This is a big city. There’s lots of room for the arts. People should be in touch with other people,” he advises, meaning more than just the sharing of information.

    Maurice has been doing his downtown walkabout for almost five years. He’s handed out programs and worked the front house at Aquarius for almost as long. He’s “done everything” at all the festivals (Mustard, Aquafest, Festival of Friends, and Buskingfest). “Volunteering came naturally to my family,” Maurice explains. “We were involved with Scouting and church activities as a matter of course, so you could say I’ve been volunteering all my life.”

    Figuring he volunteered 700 - 800 hours in any given year, as this year, the International Year of the Volunteer, rolled around Maurice set a goal for himself - 1,000 hours. Trouble is, he passed that mark sometime in September. And in true Maurice style handed out certificates of gratitude to the organizations he volunteered for - thanking them for giving him the opportunity to reach his goal. Now he’s set another goal - another 250 hours by year’s end. The hours are duly recorded at the Volunteer Centre of Hamilton. Maurice says, “If you want to put a little fun in your life - try volunteering.”

    “I volunteer because I want to, not because I’m, obligated to,” says the 59 year old Maurice. In addition to this volunteering, he signs in three choirs (Dofasco Male Chorus, Stoney Creek United Church and Enchanted Ensemble). “I’ve been a singer and dancer my whole life. I love getting in front of an audience.” His self-confidence and talkative nature easily attest to that. Maurice always has a positive opinion, an encouraging word or a cute little story to brighten up anyone’s day. According to Maurice it’s a gift that along with his harmonic voice, deserves to be shared. And those of us who live or work in downtown Hamilton are better for it.

Hunter, Lawson. “Volunteering for Art’s Sake” Arts Beat, vol. 14 , no. 1, Jan 2002, p. 8.