The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Focus on the Arts

February 26, 2012

Volunteers use time, talents to fulfill mission at Bottle Works

JOHNSTOWN — Gloria Cernic of Tanneryville admits she doesn’t have an artistic bone in her body, but the West Taylor Township woman could be considered the backbone of the Bottle Works Ethnic Arts Center.

Cernic is one of a select group of volunteers and staff members who generously use their time and talents to fulfill the mission of the arts center, located at 411 Third Ave. in the Cambria City section of Johnstown.

“I believe in the mission of the Bottle Works so much that anytime they call me for help, I’ll be there,” she said.

“I sometimes go in twice a week and there may be a gap of several weeks until they need me again, but I enjoy everything about being there.”

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Cernic, who declined to give her age, has worked under the auspices of six activities directors in the past decade.

“We are just one part of what is being done in Cambria City to preserve the ethnic heritage of the area,” she said.

“I would tell anyone with some spare time to find a cause and pitch in to help.”

Cernic, who also volunteers at the Greater Johnstown Convention and Visitors Bureau, likes promoting the things that make Johnstown special.

At the Bottle Works, Cernic answers telephone inquires, guides visitors through the building and hands out printed literature to name a few of her tasks.

Cernic admires the job Executive Director Rosemary Pawlowski has done.

“She would never ask anyone to do something that she wouldn’t be willing to do herself,“ Cernic said.

The dependency on volunteers also extends to the exterior of the structure.

Bottle Works board member Jeanne Susko of Geistown Borough said that was no more evident than the response by the many volunteers who helped to create the tulip mosaic that is blooming on the facade of the arts center.

“The effort of the community’s adults and children is proudly displayed on the outside walls of the Bottle Works building,” she said.

Another element of support comes from the contributions made by members of AmeriCorps.

“When we get an AmeriCorps member, we view our involvement as a boot camp for leaders,” Pawlowski said.

“Those who have worked with us over the years have gone on to important positions and we could not function without them.”

There is a price tag for using AmeriCorps personnel. The Bottle Works pays the service organization $7,200 for a member to work over the course of a year.

“We are able to help educate AmeriCorps affiliates to understand the importance to preserve and celebrate the cultural diversity of the people of this region through arts, such as music, dance, costume, ethnic food and traditions,” said Kamal Gella board member and treasurer of Bottle Works.

What impresses Gella about those associated with AmeriCorps is their ability to take their experience to their next jobs.

Beth Elston of Westmont is the current AmeriCorps member working as activities director.

“Personally, the most rewarding part for me is to create opportunities for people to become more involved with the arts,” Elston said.

“I have been able to introduce artists to the Bottle Works, promote our dynamic classes to the community and spread the word about our concerts and other programs.”

Elston said she is encouraged that people often volunteer when they renew their yearly membership gift.

They also step forward after attending an event and want to become more involved.

“I would say that both women and men volunteer regularly over a short or a longer period of time,” she said.

“We often have students volunteering as part of their community service hours, and we have also worked with college students in need of case studies or internships for course credits.”

Elston recruits volunteers to serve in various areas such as event support, reception, filing, data entry and hospitality.

“What I hope to take away from this experience is a greater understanding of my areas of strength and areas for growth within an organization,” she said.

Elston had been a stay-at-home mom for 15 years before re-entering the work force.

“The one-year term for AmeriCorps service was an ideal way for me to start that process,” Elston said.

“This opportunity has taught me about leadership, community and communication, and I can see firsthand the difference I am making here every day.”

Anyone interested in volunteering can call the Bottle Works at 536-5399.

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