Sunday, June 24, 2018
Politics

Host committee calls for 7,500 volunteers for Republican National Convention

TAMPA — They won't get inside for the nominee's acceptance speech, but 7,500 local volunteers will do a lot to set the tone outside the Republican National Convention.

So on Monday, the Tampa Bay Host Committee put out a call for as many people as it can find like Dan Jordan of Clearwater.

Jordan, 77, is a commercial real estate broker with a hopeful vision of the legacy that the convention could leave behind.

"We want these people to enjoy their stay and come back," said Jordan, who is helping recruit other volunteers. "I've told people it's time to give something back, so let's get involved. This is big. It will be rewarding down the road."

Host committee volunteers will greet conventioneers at airports and at hotels, help visitors find their way, put together gift bags, do office chores, help set up for events and essentially try to make Tampa Bay a friendly, efficient place that out-of-towners will remember fondly.

"These volunteers are the faces of Tampa Bay to the thousands of guests that will come to this area," said Amanda Whitelaw, the host committee's director of events and volunteers.

The host committee already has a list of about 2,000 prospective volunteers and is registering more online at 2012tampa.com/get-involved.

By comparison, when Tampa hosted Super Bowl XLIII in 2009, the local host committee recruited about 6,400 volunteers, said Whitelaw, who worked with volunteers at that Super Bowl as well as at last year's NFL championship in Dallas.

Volunteers have to be 18 or older by June, have a driver's license or other government-issued photo ID and undergo a background check.

Those who sign up should do so because they really want to help, not because they're looking for behind-the-scenes access. They won't get convention credentials or tickets to events. Nor will there be volunteer opportunities inside the Tampa Bay Times Forum or the Tampa Convention Center, the filing center for up to 15,000 visiting journalists.

What doesn't matter, organizers say, is your politics or your party affiliation.

"We want people who want to help support Tampa Bay," said Aileen Rodriguez, spokeswoman for the host committee, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization.

Once registered, volunteers will go to a one-hour orientation this summer and learn about signing up for at least two four-hour shifts. They'll also get a uniform and an invitation to a thank-you celebration after the convention, which is scheduled for Aug. 27-30.

Volunteers will work throughout Tampa Bay.

Greeters will be posted at Tampa International Airport and St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport and in the lobbies of more than 60 hotels in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties.

In St. Petersburg, an "event setup crew" will help at various unspecified events the week of the convention. (Organizers caution: Volunteer for this duty, and you'll find yourself standing or walking for most of your shift.)

And in downtown Tampa, volunteer way-finders will greet visitors and hand out maps the week of the convention. This will also involve a lot of standing and walking, and it will be outside the secure perimeter that the Secret Service will establish around the forum and the convention center.

Volunteer Jennifer Griffin, 29, of Clearwater said she wants to be involved partly because the convention might not ever come back to Tampa Bay.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," she said, "to show who Tampa Bay is and that we've got great people, great places and scenery, and great businesses."

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