Why volunteer with us?

Read about all the fun ways to get involved with us here at Great American Downtown,
and check below to read one volunteer’s story in our Volunteer Spotlight!

Why should you volunteer with Great American Downtown?
Well… Why not?

With something going on pretty much every month of the year, Great American Downtown is making things happen in Downtown Nashua. And as a nonprofit with only three employees, we’d sure love some extra hands!

In 2020, we’re striving to grow our at-the-ready volunteer ranks by at least 25 percent. We thought it might help to describe some of the opportunities out there to get involved with us. That way, you can find what speaks to you, and where your own strengths lie. We hope that in clarifying these volunteer “categories,” potential helpers will feel more comfortable being put on the to-call list. For example, if you’d prefer not to do heavy lifting, you could pitch in selling event t-shirts or putting up posters around town. Perhaps you love gardening, or feel satisfaction in removing litter from nature.

And remember: Telling us you’re interested in volunteering isn’t a lifelong commitment or a guaranteed ask! We certainly won’t bug you if you say no to a requested event or program. We appreciate that everyone has lives, jobs, families and other responsibilities that take time and precedence.

Check out our Programs page and read about what Great American Downtown has on the horizon. What sparks your interest? Want to help us get the great local bands set up for our annual Nu Muse Festival in May? Want to get your hands dirty in the Community Garden? Would you enjoy using a hammer and creating forms for our Scarecrow Contest? There’s lots of ways to get involved in the fun!

What kind of volunteer opportunities are there?

  • Maintenance — physical labor
    • Heavy lifting
    • Stage, tent set-up
    • Truck driving, loading and unloading
  • Administrative — indoor labor
    • Counting, sorting, folding
    • Assembly line type help (eg, bobeches)
    • Booth tending and information giving
  • Sales
    • Ticket booth
    • Event table
    • GAD swag table
  • Gardening
    • Building new bed frames
    • Weeding
    • Litter pick-up along trail
  • Creative, Marketing and Misc.
    • Building scarecrow skeletons
    • Decorating events and seasonally
    • Disseminating or gathering materials and items to/from GAD
    • Helping out at events in other ways

Volunteer Spotlight:

Volunteer Sandy Gribbin and her six grandchildren.

Giving back, making friends… and
making a difference

Sandy Gribbin says she gets as much out of volunteering as she gives.

Gribbin, 55, moved to Nashua in 2013. She has two grown children and six grandchildren, but living alone here in the Gate City, she was finding it difficult to find new friends. “As a new person in Nashua, it’s really hard to meet people,” she says. “Besides the nice people I’ve met through First Church, I was also looking for people to hang out with, that have things in common.”

She was residing on Main Street in Downtown Nashua when she discovered Great American Downtown events.

“I would see all the Facebook posts, like Dinner on Main Street… and I thought, I can’t afford to go, but I could volunteer,” Gribbin says. “I saw the plea [for volunteers] for the Roots Festival, so that was the first one I volunteered at; I really enjoyed it. Then it was Plaid Friday, the indoor Winter Market and the Holiday Stroll. As someone who doesn’t drive, it was great because Great American Downtown events are easy for me to walk to.”

In addition to getting out and interacting with new people, Gribbin “felt like giving back. Nashua has given me a lot of assistance and helped me a lot – housing, services; I use the Nashua transit system, which is wonderful, because I have no car. I walk everywhere I can. The First Church have helped me a lot as well,” she says.

Gribbin has always helped others when she could. Originally from Maine, she volunteered there as a CCD teacher at her church; she was also the treasurer for her son’s Cub Scouts troop. Volunteering is a satisfying way for her to pay it forward, she says. “I’ve received so many services; I feel good giving back, knowing I’m making a difference in the community,” Gribbin says.

It’s not the first time Gribbin has made an impact on her new city. She’s volunteered with the United Way of Greater Nashua. And more significantly, she “saw the need” and brought the End 68 Hours of Hunger program to Nashua schoolchildren. “I started that for 200 kids. I’m glad it’s getting the recognition that it needs and deserves now,” she explains. “But it was a tough sell in the beginning. I had to bring down executive director Claire Bloom from the Dover program to convince the school superintendent that it would be a valid and important endeavor. And it has been.”

Gribbin encourages you to consider volunteering with Great American Downtown. “We have a lot of fun at events. It’s not even like you realize how cold it is, like at the Holiday Stroll, or how hot it is, like at the Roots Festival,” she says, laughing.

She candidly discusses how volunteerism has not only helped her realize some things, but how she hopes to be a model for others to make their own realizations.

“The volunteerism experience has opened my mind and made me not judge,” she acknowledges. “I used to judge all the time. Even when I was a young mother and I ended up needing services myself, I was still judging others. Then I thought, who am I to judge? Maybe I’m being judged, too.

“The most important thing I would suggest to people is, don’t judge a book by its cover,” she continues. “Like people that take the bus; they WORK. They’re very nice to talk to. I’ve met some great people on public transit. And volunteering. It’s a good reason to volunteer,” she says.

And as a person now disabled for mental health, Gribbin says she would “love to show others that people with mental health problems aren’t all bad, or can’t do things.”

“I can’t work, but I can volunteer. I can’t give money, but I can give time.”

–– As told to Kathleen Palmer

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