June 8, 2014

News & Features

Volunteers make local car museums, events possible

Special to NWautos


Docent and volunteer Ron Schill (third from left) leads a tour at the LeMay museum. (Courtesy of LeMay — America's Car Museum)

Shannon Elliott has been fascinated with cars since she was in fourth grade, and she hopes to study auto body and upholstery design through an apprenticeship or college program.

But for now, the Olympia High School grad, 19, is volunteering and interning in the education department at LeMay — America's Car Museum in Tacoma.

"I just love being around the cars at LeMay," Elliott says. "There's always new and interesting stuff to do and interesting people to meet. And I never get tired of walking around the museum. It's an education."

Get on board
    If you're interested in volunteering, submit an application online, contact the club or organization that's hosting an event, or simply show up and introduce yourself. For a list of auto-related events, visit the NWautos calendar.

Volunteering at museums, car shows, swap meets and race tracks is a great way to stay connected to the world of wheels.

Larry Smith, who has owned muscle cars since the 1960s, also volunteers at LeMay. He enjoys cleaning, waxing and tinkering with the cars at the museum.

"You get to be around a lot of people of like interests," Smith says. "When we work on the cars, we do a lot of talking and we learn from each other."

Volunteering is also a way of supporting the automotive hobby and the institutions that cater to it.

"Volunteers are an essential part of our operation," says Jana Wennstrom, volunteer coordinator at the museum. "They do so much, from maintaining the cars to greeting visitors, who get firsthand, one-on-one information from the volunteers."

LeMay has more than 250 volunteers, but Wennstrom hopes to recruit 50 to 100 more. "We're particularly slim on volunteers on the weekends, when we need help the most," she says.

At the separate LeMay Family Collection Foundation in Tacoma, office manager Stacy Rushton is always looking for volunteers.

"We're open six days a week, and we have only two staff people," Rushton says. "So everything else that's done around here — cleaning cars, moving cars, helping in the gift shop, maintaining the website — is with the help of volunteers. When you volunteer, you become part of a family."

This month's Greenwood Car Show, the biggest car show in Seattle, requires volunteers each year. John Harwood, of the Greenwood Knights Car Club, says the club encourages volunteers to sign up on the show's site, greenwoodcarshow.com.

"There's a cooperative spirit," Harwood says. "Everyone pitches in."

For nearly 20 years, members of the Issaquah-based Sunset Hiway Cruisers Car Club have provided volunteer support for the numerous car shows at Triple XXX Root Beer Drive-In. Through the shows and other efforts, the club has raised more than $100,000 for Life Enrichment Options (LEO), a local nonprofit that helps the developmentally disabled.

"My way of giving back was to sponsor these shows," says club President Marv Nielsen, whose daughter is developmentally disabled.

Guy Generaux is a past president of the Puget Sound Regional Group of the Early Ford V-8 Club. For more than 40 years, the club has hosted the Seattle Swap Meet, one of the largest swap meets in the state.

Club members volunteer to take reservations, assign stalls, direct traffic and perform a myriad of other tasks. The group also gets volunteer support from other clubs, which are paid for their time.

"It's blossomed into a good thing for several clubs," Generaux says.

At race tracks, volunteers work as ticket takers, ushers, supervisors in the VIP areas, and security and alcohol-enforcement personnel.

"You're part of the thrill of racing and part of the action," says Sue Kahawaii, volunteer coordinator of Pacific Raceways in Kent. "And if you're an usher, you've got front-row access. It's really fun."


Partner video