Volunteer of the Week: Lesley Bookout, of Niles

Published 9:19 am Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Lesley Bookout, a longtime resident of Niles and a retired insurance agent, is a member of the promotions committee with the Niles Main Street organization. Bookout volunteers every year with Niles’ Hunter Ice Festival, which will take place Jan. 22-24 downtown.

How long have you been Niles Main Street?

Lesley Bookout

Lesley Bookout

I’ve been on the promotions committee since the November before the first ice festival (which began in 2005). I was there when we decided it would be a good thing for Niles to have an ice festival. In six weeks we put it together. I’ve run the warming center ever since.

What is the warming center?

It is a place that is welcoming the public to come in and get warm. We have children’s activities inside so they can get warm. We have a clothesline art show the kids can color pictures for that we hang up, and then we give the kids a souvenir for the ice festival. We have crafts for the kids to do. We have free coffee and cocoa…we have free cookies, free popcorn. We have chairs and tables for people to sit down and relax and get out of the cold.

Are there any other services you provide?

We usually have some kind of souvenir. We have menus from local restaurants, so people can in and ask questions about where they can eat. We provide information about places to shop — all that kind of stuff. It’s really a welcome center and a warming center.

What made you want to begin volunteering with the festival?

My parents were volunteers. My mother was the executive director with the March of Dimes in Detroit. She worked with the volunteers. I knew that’s what you did when you grew up — you volunteered. There were certain things that needed to be done to raise money and to help other people through volunteering. I was raised doing that, and when I moved to Niles, my husband and I started volunteering here.

Now my kids volunteer with me, and my grandson. It’s a family kind of thing.

Is there anything you like about helping with the festival every year?

It was fun putting together from the very beginning, and then watching it grow and getting to know the carvers, since they come back from year to year. I’m friends with them on Facebook, so I know them as individuals. You get to appreciate their art more that way. I also meet everybody who comes to town. And they love to come in and get warm, because it’s usually cold.

What are some other things you like to volunteer with?

I’m a member Psi Iota Zi Sorority. It’s a national philanthropic organization. I’ve been involved at the local office, where I’ve held all the offices and been a member for 45 years. I was a state officer and national officer. I was national president in 1988. I have a lot of years of service in that organization. Their whole purpose is to promote art, literature and music, as well as speech and hearing. It’s all volunteer work. We have fundraisers to raise money that we give away to other organizations that could use money for art, literature and music projects or speech and hearing projects. Anything that needs help, we help with.

Why do feel like people should volunteer?

The world can’t operate only with paid people. There isn’t enough money to pay everyone to do everything. A lot of the wheels of this country turn only because there are volunteers running them. It takes a lot of people to put anything together. Like the old saying “many hands make light work,” the more people we can get to volunteer to do things, the easier it is for everybody.

Do you know a volunteer worthy of recognition? Nominate him or her by calling Craig Haupert, community editor, at (269) 687-7720, or by email at craig.haupert@leaderpub.com.