By ERIKA ANDERSON, Staff Writer | Published November 3, 2005
They stood tirelessly by the escalators wearing bright blue vests, greeting NCYC attendees and checking credentials.
For hours they worked with teens in the arts and crafts area of the thematic park, helping them assemble prayer journals or teaching them to make twine rosaries.
In the Georgia Dome, they directed teens to their seats, ushered them to Communion and made sure they safely exited the Dome after the sessions had finished.
They were even at the airport, MARTA stations and hotels greeting traveling teens and their adults for hours.
And they managed to do it all with a smile.
Hundreds of people volunteered their time and energy to help at the National Catholic Youth Conference, and organizers say that it wouldn’t have been the same without them.
Richard Thacker and his wife, parishioners at St. Augustine Church in Covington, volunteered inside the Georgia Dome during NCYC’s main sessions as ushers and security.
“This has been wonderful. We’ve had a blast the whole time,” he said. “It really strengthens your faith to see all these kids gather together like this for Christ. This has been a really great time.”
Many of the volunteers who worked during the conference expressed their excitement for the event.
Sherrie McQueen, a parishioner at Transfiguration Church in Marietta, served on the steering committee as the hospitality representative, along with fellow Transfiguration parishioner Peter Kanzler. Almost 70 volunteers served in a hospitality capacity, greeting conference-goers at the airport, at MARTA and at their hotels, and many of them also volunteered in other parts of NCYC.
“I think they enjoyed themselves immensely,” McQueen said of the volunteers. “They were willing to do whatever was needed. A lot of them came to volunteer their time for a few hours and ended up coming back the next day. They were just pumped up by the kids and by the music and the speakers.”
Janice Givens, the assistant director of the thematic park, said that the volunteers were willing to pitch in wherever needed.
“We ended up being a bit short-staffed, but the volunteers that were there rose to the occasion. Every single volunteer who (came) was amazing and willing to stay longer,” she said.
Givens credited many of the volunteers behind the scenes who helped to make the park run smoothly, including those who prayed for the event.
“All those people who were praying for us were just as much a volunteer as those on the front lines,” she said. “The volunteers were just amazing. I can’t say enough about them.”
Kevin O’Brien, a parishioner of St. Augustine Church in Covington, was in charge of security for NCYC and offered praise for his volunteers.
“I think some of the volunteers almost had more fun than the kids,” he said. “From start to finish not a single one complained.”
O’Brien’s wife, DeAnna, volunteered and helped to check credentials as attendees descended the escalators in the World Congress Center. By the end of the conference, her nametag held pins and stickers given to her by teens and several strands of Mardi Gras beads hung around her neck.
“This was a fantastic opportunity to help and at the same time to see all the kids,” she said. “Being here and seeing all of them showed me that the church is going to be 100 times better than it is today. I have absolutely no worries about the future of our church.”