This mini-memoir by VASA former President and Board Member, Gayle Turner, is the first of a series of articles by present and former Board Members telling their stories of finding joy serving the board, our membership and the larger Virginia storytelling community.
When I decided to explore the world of storytelling someone, I do not remember who, but I am eternally grateful to them, told me I should check out the Virginia Storytelling Alliance. I discovered they were holding their Annual Virginia Storytelling Gathering in Lynchburg that year and I registered.
I remember wandering around Liberty University until finally finding my way to the meeting in a strip mall adjacent to the campus. The morning went by quickly with a swap and a class led by Anthony Burcher. Lunch time came and we ambled down to the Cici’s Pizza. After loading my tray with enough carbs to stack me for a marathon I looked for a group to join. Two bright faces looked up and almost in unison said, “Join us.” That was the day I first met Sheila Arnold and Linda Goodman. That welcome was indicative of the warmth I’ve experienced throughout our storytelling family.
I joined VASA that afternoon and the next year I attended The Gathering in Culpeper. That Sunday while attending the Annual Meeting I asked a question and at the end of the meeting I was asked to join the Board. Darci Tucker was Secretary of the Board at that time and her bookings were growing at such a pace that she was unable to attend meetings on a regular basis. The first meeting I attended she was absent, and I asked, “Do we take minutes for these meetings?” And that was how I became the Secretary of the Board.
At the end of that fiscal year several members rotated off the Board: among them Louise Tucciarone, the President, and Sheila Arnold, the Vice President. Both of whom encouraged the new Board to ask me to serve as President.
I have served two three-year terms on the Board. Five of them as your President. I have had the joy of working with my fellow Board members to produce our Annual Gathering, and to inaugurate our weekend education retreat when we brought Elizabeth Ellis up from Texas. Darci Tucker was lined up for our second weekend when Covid changed our world. I look forward to attending the weekend with Darci post pandemic.
Through the urging of Les Schaffer and the tireless efforts of Helen Qubain our financial documentation is in excellent shape and in the capable hands of Clint Atwater.
I have been supported in my role as President by Norris Spencer as Vice President. Norris publishes our newsletter, our most important communication channel with our members. Under my predecessor, Louise Tucciarone, we overhauled our website and hired Karen Wollscheid as our webmaster. She has transformed it into our interface with the world.
Les Schaffer who had served on the Board in the past is now serving as the editor of the blog (where I assume, you’re reading this). Most recently, Les has been teaching a workshop for VASA on Healing Stories.
Norris and Anette Stjärnhjärta are our Programming Committee working to develop offerings for our membership and the world.
Nick Baskerville is managing our Social Media constantly looking for ways to engage our members and the world.
I will be rotating off the Board at the end of June. I stayed on for an additional year to serve as a form of institutional memory in the role of Immediate Past President to assist Ruth Walkup, our current President. A word about Ruth, she is a much more organized leader than I am and has done more in her term this past year to bring structure to the organization than in my whole tenure. She will rotate off the Board this year as well leaving the organization healthier for her service. My only claim to fame here being I recruited her.
I want to mention one other person who makes a great contribution to the Alliance. Via Goode has been our Membership Chair since I joined the organization. She serves selflessly, tirelessly, and keeps our membership and dues collection up to date. She is truly a blessing to our community and deserves our appreciation.
VASA is a volunteer organization led by volunteers. The past seven years have been a joy. Joyful because of the opportunity to work with the aforementioned folks in service of our community. Eleven monthly 1-2 hour Board meetings, and an annual weekend planning retreat have been a small price to pay for the pleasure of their company and the educational, entertainment and networking benefits I have received in return.
Give some thought to serving on VASA’s Board. When you look back after your tenure, I am sure you will smile and bow your head with gratitude as I do now.