At WaterFire Providence we love recruiting new volunteers to help us light up the night, but one thing we pride ourselves most on is when volunteers love their experience so much that they decide to return to help at another event. Or in the case of Catherine and Wayne Barnes, returning for 10 more years of volunteering.
The Barnes, who live in East Providence, have been married for 30 years and have been donating their time and talent to WaterFire Providence for 10 of those years. It all started back in 2007 when Catherine and Wayne decided to volunteer for one event when their son needed to acquire volunteer hours. Since then the Barnes have been a vital part of our volunteer operation, especially at our RISD Guest Station! They say their favorite part of volunteering is meeting and talking with everyone who has come out to enjoy WaterFire.
Catherine is the Assistant Dean for Administrative Services at the Claire T. Carney University Library at UMass Dartmouth and will soon be retiring after 38 years. Wayne serves as the Deputy Emergency Management Agency Director for the city of East Providence. In their free time, the Barnes say that they enjoy traveling, dining on Federal Hill, occasionally going to plays in the area, and attending Pawtucket Red Sox and Providence Bruins games.
With 10 years of volunteer experience under their belts, the Barnes have been part of a large number of WaterFire Providence’s events, but when asked what special moment at WaterFire stood out to them the most, the couple replied:
“We carried torches at both ends of the Gloria Gemma procession from the State House to the basin once years ago. It was quite a thrill to be with all of those people who were fighting cancer or who were survivors.”
Although a lot has changed since they began 10 years ago many common threads persist throughout WaterFire Providence, Wayne shared his impressions:
“What hasn’t changed is how impressed our visitors are with the event. Every fire we meet people from outside of the area (mostly the Northeast but some from further) and we’re seeing more and more people who come here from a distance specifically for WaterFire, rather than just stumbling on it which used to be more common.”
They often tell people of how much they love volunteering, describing WaterFire as “reflective, relaxing, rejuvenating,” with Wayne adding, “Catherine and I hope to keep at this for many more years!”
The Barnes have very simple advice for those who are interested in volunteering: “Just go on the website and sign up. We need you!”
Natalie Morin, Volunteer Management and Engagement Intern for Summer 2016, also contributed to this story. Featured image: Braziers in the Waterplace Park Basin, photo by Erin Cuddigan.