TAB Volunteer of the Year
by Kandee DeGraw
Feb 25, 2010 | 1100 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Jodie Wright
Jodie Wright
TELLURIDE – Telluride architect Jodie Wright got involved when the Telluride AIDS Benefit was in its infancy, stepping in to help with what she calls “very basic stuff,” like fire-marshal approvals and seat assignments.

But we who worked on the event then remember her as a lifesaver. “We had passion and we had vision about what we wanted to change and accomplish, but we had no idea how to go about it,” recalls Sue Hobby, longtime TAB staff-member and designer. “Jodie was so, I guess, calm, is the word.”

Wright remains calm today, even as the 200 square-foot TAB office hums with four workers (and their cell phones), numerous visitors, three computers, one adorably antiquated landline that rings nonstop with people asking for tickets to the sold-out shows. Perched on a rickety office chair with perfect posture, Wright cracks jokes and doesn’t let anything, from the miscellany cascading out of piles of boxes to the din, break her stride.

“Things are so different now. When I was a dresser, backstage was crazy,” she says with a laugh, “but now it’s teams of very organized people who do this all very methodically. We’ve created lists!

“From infrastructure and from an organizational standpoint, things have matured.”

Wright has seen the show wind its way through various venues, as well – the Quonset Hut, for one memorable year, then the Art Factory, and now the Conference Center.

“The show is very different now. When Daiva [Chesonis] directed it, there were all of these props, boats and little houses. We also did these sorts of skits, we told stories. I was a little sad when that changed; it seemed like something was missing.

“But as far as the show today,” she says, “there is nothing missing – props, dancing, you name it. Every year is surprising and different. I am constantly amazed. I still, after all these years, am amazed that everything gets pulled together so quickly.”

Wright goes on to reminisce about what the shows of yore – “the year with the hula-hoops in the air, the Freebox wedding dress, the latex line, the year we had a fire onstage.

“And, oh – the Carhartt line - that I loved!”

And still, today, she says: “When the music starts and people start dancing, I get verklempt.”

Wright was invited to join the TAB Board in 2003, since which time two more beneficiaries – the Manzini project, in Africa, and Brother Jeff’s Health Initiative, in Denver – have been added.

“I love our board,” she says today. “I love being part of our board; the personalities are amazing. The people are fantastic and everyone brings their own strengths to the table. And every person is so involved with their part of things. It is amazing how much Ron [Gilmer] and Sandy [McLaughlin] do,” she says of those TAB veterans.

If you know Wright at all, you get used to the way she thanks everyone instead of talking about her own hours and hours of work. Of her own contributions, she says: “I just want to pull my own weight. One of my primary goals this year is to fundraise and raise more than I did last year. “

Since 2002, TAB has given away at least $100,000 annually – last year, the benefit distributed a whopping $160,000 to its beneficiaries.

“I mean, holy crap!” Wright enthuses. “I don’t know if people can imagine how much change can be done with the amount of money we raise and distribute. The work that has been done with what we have given to Africa…. We have given one orphanage ways to make their own money –sustainable fixes to long-term problems,” and raised an impressive $1.3 million for its beneficiaries in its 17 years. “Incredible,” Wright says. “How does all that happen, the logistics? And every year, these amazing people, they give, they show up, they volunteer… just because they want to. Incredible.”

It was former TAB Boardmember Deb Wooddell who encouraged Wright to step up from her behind-the-scenes work and become a fundraiser. “We had a contest,” Wright remembers, and “the volunteer who raised the most money won a two-night stay in Sante Fe and a nice dinner. At first, I was really nervous about asking for money. How do you walk up and say, ‘Hey, How about some money?’. I was completely floored by how many people were willing to give. They didn’t have the time to volunteer, but were happy and even excited to give money. I took TAB as an opportunity to introduce people to our community. When someone says, ‘Yes!’ it gives you the energy to ask 10 more people! I stepped in for altruistic reasons, because this was something I could give to and for the community.

“Moreover, it still surprises me how much it gives back to me. You can’t get away from feeling good about it. You always get more then you give.

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