COLDWATER – After a flurry of activity during Tibbits Summer Theatre, the historic theatre has named Gail Russell, Joann Lloyd, and Jeri and Jack Vettle as its summer volunteers of the month.
Last recognized after pivoting through the many changes due to Covid, Gail Russell has spent the past eight years rolling up her sleeves and helping with weeding and planting flower beds, preparing bulk mailings, folding programs, ushering, house managing, tending bar, preparing food for entertainers and helping with the auction.
Born and raised in Coldwater, Russell was in the theatre often. She did props for school plays and watched her brother on stage. While she did live in Texas and Oregon for a short time, she returned to Coldwater. Russell has three grown sons, Shane, Shad, and Chris, all of whom have performed on stage. She also has four grandkids and four great grandkids.
Russell said, “Of course I love seeing all the shows, but also listening to people that are there for the first time talk about how exciting it is for them.” She continued, “The take-away from being a volunteer is just that great feeling of volunteering your time to help. Everyone needs to volunteer for something.”
Summer had Tibbits celebrating Joann Lloyd’s volunteerism. Lloyd was first connected with the Tibbits with her kids and husband, who were involved with the community theatre and summer theatre production of “South Pacific” during the mid-1980s. This helped peak her interest with ushering, which is her favorite volunteer activity at Tibbits. She also assists in the gift shop, by folding programs, working on bulk mailings, and delivering brochures.
Originally from the Lansing/Kalamazoo areas, Lloyd moved to Coldwater in 1980 with her husband Rick, who was the Director of the Big Brothers/Big Sisters agency. Lloyd was a stay-at-home mom to their three kids Craig, Karen, and Becky and then worked for Saint Charles Church and Saint Charles School as a teacher. Both she and her husband have since retired, done a little babysitting and in between have done a lot of traveling. They have been overseas 10 times to Europe and visited almost all of the states and Canadian Provinces. Aside from traveling, Lloyd loves to read and do small crafts like cross-stitch and bake.
While she enjoys getting out of the house volunteering at the voting polls or senior centers, Lloyd said, “Tibbits gives me the biggest lift. I especially love meeting people involved, staff and patrons of the Tibbits and you get to see the plays. It’s more play than work.”
She continued, “The older I get, the more I see there is so much more to see and learn…Sitting at home and just growing old is not an option. The Tibbits keeps us alive.”
The dynamic duo of Jeri and Jack Vettle are new to the area, having just moved to Jonesville in the spring of 2021 where they married on their back deck in August. They visited Tibbits while in Coldwater and signed on to help as ushers and bartenders. Even though they’re relatively new to volunteering with Tibbits, they help in a variety of areas including folding programs, doing bulk mailings and providing food for the summer company.
Though Jack has lived in Coldwater in the past, Jeri moved here from Grand Rapids where she volunteered at the Master Arts Theatre. No stranger to theatre, she also worked at Peoria Theater Works when she lived in Arizona. The newlyweds are still settling in and when they aren’t volunteering, they enjoy traveling, both locally and around the US.
The Vettles love volunteering at Tibbits because “it’s a great place to meet new people and support local live theatre at the same time!”
The Volunteers of the Month are chosen by Tibbits staff. Selection is based on the hours and/or service, as well as leadership, special skills or expertise shared. Criteria may be project specific or general support and volunteerism. In recognition of this award, each received a $25 Coldwater Area Chamber of Commerce Debit Card.
Tibbits is always looking for more volunteers in a variety of areas: ushering, working the gift shop or concessions, doing general office help, sorting archival materials, planting flowers, decorating the theatre, and much more. Those interested in volunteering should contact Tibbits at 517-278-6029 or volunteer@Tibbits.org. Tibbits Opera House is located at 14 S. Hanchett Street, Coldwater, MI. www.Tibbits.org.