On November 6th, 2006, the South Orange Performing Arts Center opened its doors after years of planning and construction. Six years later, SOPAC is experiencing a new level of attendance[http://southorange.patch.com/blog_posts/sopac-celebrates-unprecedented-attendance-in-2011-12-season]. As new and familiar faces enter SOPAC, patrons can always expect to receive a warm and friendly welcome from one of SOPAC’s many volunteers.
One of the many valued volunteers at SOPAC is RitaMiller. She has been with SOPAC since it was first announced that a performing arts center would be opened in Downtown South Orange. Miller expressed to me that she remembers reading the announcement in the News-Record and thinking how exciting it will be to have a venue right here in her hometown. Miller knew she wanted to be a part of SOPAC and began volunteering right away.
A South Orange resident, Miller remembers SOPAC’s ribbon cutting ceremony, which showcased Columbia High School’s marching band, as the beginning of her volunteering career. Since opening in 2006, Miller has volunteered at countless performances, including her two favorite shows - Yo-Yo Ma (2006) and Menopause (2009 & 2010).
Over the past six years her volunteerism has expanded from ushering to helping out with administrative tasks, assisting with mailings and events, and lending a hand in the 2009 Casino Night Fundraiser. When SOPAC has an outdoor event or street fair to attend, Miller can always be seen talking to potential costumers and recruiting volunteers. She continues to volunteer because of her new appreciation for the performing arts as well as for the new and wonderful friends she has made along the way. Simone Klausner, recruited by Miller in 2009, said, “until I met Rita Miller, I had never done anything like this. Now I’m seeing amazing shows and working with some of the nicest people I’ve ever met.”
What makes Rita Miller October’s Volunteer of the Month? Miller embodies what SOPAC stands for – engaging the community through the arts, revitalizing her beloved Downtown South Orange and sparking a passion for the arts within all individuals. “I have an appreciation for performing arts, more than I did before, says Miller. “All the practicing by performers, preparing the venues, selling tickets, all the way down to ushering the performance, bringing a variety of people together, which is an amazing thing.”
During Miller’s downtime she can be found playing tennis, or catching a bite at Bunny’s. For all of her support, positive attitude and time, SOPAC would like to thank October’s Volunteer of the Month, Rita Miller.
Tracy Christiani is an Albright College graduate, 2012 B.A. in Art and Communication, and Columbia High School Alumni, 2008. After moving back to Maplewood, she received an internship at SOPAC combining her areas of concentration.