Volunteer Spotlight: Steven Sondler

Posted by on Aug 3, 2016 in Volunteering | No Comments | Permalink
Volunteer Spotlight: Steven Sondler

At WaterFire Providence, we like volunteers to be exposed to different opportunities in order to find where a volunteer will fit best based on their skills and their interests. A volunteer finding their niche and becoming part of the WaterFire experience is something we strive for and look forward to with every person who lends us their time and talent. Steven Sondler has seen the different parts of WaterFire and found his niche. He first dipped his feet into WaterFire Providence with our Morning Build Crew before moving to Special Ops and Nighttime Woodboat Crew. In 2012 he decided to take the Captains training to be a Guest Boat Captain, and he has been one of the best ever since.

Chinese Dragon Dance performance on three WaterFire boats. Steven Sondler is piloting the center vessel. Photo by John Nickerson.

Chinese Dragon Dance performance on three WaterFire boats. Steven Sondler is piloting the center vessel. Photo by John Nickerson.

Mr. Sondler grew up in Lincoln, RI and moved to East Greenwich in 1988, where he lived for 27 years. He is a veteran of the US Army and also worked for the US Postal Service for 36 years. In 2011 he retired from that position and then fully retired in 2014, moving to Ft. Lauderdale to become one of our most valuable “snow birds.” He returns from sunny Florida from late May until October to volunteer at both WaterFire Providence and the Providence Preservation Society.

WaterFire Guest Boat Captains on the Dock, Steven is second from the right. Photograph by Luis Andrade.

WaterFire Guest Boat Captains on the Dock, Steven is second from the right. Photograph by Luis Andrade.

Mr. Sondler says that of all his WaterFire memories, his favorite has to do with Gloria Gemma:

“I was able to give a ride to a boat load of cancer survivors for the Gloria Gemma WaterFire opening ceremony. I went from being sad as each torch represents one person’s death due to cancer until tears began streaming down my face.Watching the ballerinas dance and light the big ball of pink carnations into a ball of fire immediately brought jubilation and a smile to my face with a renewal of hope.”

When asked about his role as a Guest Boat Captain Mr. Sondler said that he views himself as more than just a captain to bring people up and down the river, saying “As a Guest Boat Captain I also consider myself a docent for our out of state visitors, sharing the history of RI.”

One of the aspects that keeps Mr. Sondler coming back is what WaterFire does for the city of Providence:

“When Providence recovered the rivers it was a time of rebirth for the city. WaterFire is the community event that reintroduced the city to RI residents as well as Southeast New England and visitors from other countries as well. It brought about a truly family friendly experience that enhances both the volunteers and the participants. I travel frequently and I am proud to explain WaterFire to people from all over the world. Then I show them a YouTube clips and watch the amazement on their face.”

Guest boat captains position their vessels to observe the WaterFire lighting ceremony. Steven is the on the middle boat. Photo by Irene Zawadowicz.

Guest boat captains position their vessels to observe the WaterFire lighting ceremony. Steven is the on the middle boat. Photo by Irene Zawadowicz.

We asked Mr. Sondler what advice he would give to new volunteers, or anyone interested in other volunteer positions that they haven’t tried, Mr. Sondler replied:

“There is a myriad of positions required to complete a single WaterFire. I would recommend every volunteer try all the areas to see where they feel most comfortable while meeting new people and forging relationships along the way. I have always believed as a volunteer you always get more out of the experience than the effort expended assisting one person or an organization.”

Join Steven Sondler and the whole WaterFire community to create this wonderful art by contacting WaterFire Volunteer Department at 401.273.9727 or email us at volunteer@waterfire.org.

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