For Larry and Denise Pollis of Plano, volunteering is not something they have to make time for, it is something that is integrated into their everyday life.
Education and volunteerism are very important to the couple, said Denise. She fondly recalls introducing her grandsons Jake, who is 16, and Evan, who is 14, to volunteering for the community when Evan was still in a stroller. Denise would take the boys on a walk around the neighborhood. Evan would hold homeowners’ association newsletters while Jake attached one to each front door handle of neighbor’s homes on weekend mornings.
Denise’s grandsons now participate in a variety of volunteer involvements of their own, she said. Larry and Denise are involved in the community in a variety of ways, but speak fondly of their involvement with the Plano Symphony Orchestra.
“Larry and I got involved with the Plano Symphony Guild almost immediately upon purchasing our first season subscription nine years ago,” said Denise. “Alice Hobbs and Hector Guzman, as well as the rest of the ‘family’ of staff, musicians and volunteers, were so welcoming, we were immediately engaged. I began on the Guild’s office support committee entering volunteer hours, which are so important when applying for grants. This soon grew into assisting with the Valentine Gala (the Guild’s annual fundraiser), and tracking, packaging and setting up the silent auction items for at least five years. This job grew into being operations manager for the entire gala production a couple of years ago.”
Larry recalls his earliest interactions with Plano Symphony. He had called the symphony office to inquire about subscriptions for the upcoming season. He was instructed to pick his tickets up at the symphony office. When he visited, he met Alice Hobbs, who was executive director at that time. He also met Maestro Hector Guzman and many other PSO staff members.
“They were so nice!” enthused Larry. “All of that led to [our] being members of the society and the Guild, as well as being welcomed to the whole organization. It was so much fun. We get to meet the guest artists as they come through town and participate in so much else in addition to the concerts. We do enjoy the relationships established over the past nine years so much. I cannot imagine life without the PSO.”
The couple’s volunteer involvements with the Plano Symphony Orchestra have evolved over the years, but they have both loved each unique opportunity and assignment.
Denise served on the Plano Symphony Orchestra board for five years, which included two years on the executive committee as Guild president, she said.
Larry has served a number of years on the orchestra’s IT committee using his computer networking and telecommunications skills to help the staff upgrade their communications and data storage systems and also to allow the PSO to implement online ticketing. Larry also takes, processes and publishes PSO concert and event photos.
“Larry and I average over 500 volunteer hours for the PSO a year that we think to document,” explained Denise. “My hours baking for and serving at a membership party or stuffing envelopes, for example, are fairly easy to record; but the hours Larry spends editing pictures once he takes them so only the best are on the PSO website are much harder to record. When you enjoy what you are doing and the difference you are making in the lives of your family and community, you don’t think to ‘count’ the time as volunteer hours.
The Plano Symphony Orchestra
“Every year when I work with our amazing Gladys Chan and Darlene Morford at the Collin County Young Artist Competition, we leave again amazed at the incredible talent of the young people in our region,” added Denise. “The artists are not only brilliant, dedicated musicians, but exceptional academic students and have wonderful communication skills for their ages. Somehow, Larry’s pictures always capture their personalities after I have the privilege of talking briefly with them before the judge at the finals. I love my monitor responsibilities!”
Denise said one of her favorite times volunteering with the Plano Symphony is when area fourth-grade students travel to see a Plano Symphony Orchestra performance as part of an educational field trip program.
“Each year, I see the smiling faces and the dress-up clothes the children wear off the bus,” she said. “More important are the thank yous and air of excitement when they talk about their favorite piece as they board the bus to go back to school. Even the teachers express their appreciation and delight after experiencing the concert, which is the culmination of an entire music curriculum.”
Denise has also volunteered by staffing the orchestra’s musical instrument petting zoo. She recalled a heartwarming event that took place at a recent Plano Balloon Festival.
“A small boy runs in and picks up the junior violin and bow,” she explained. “He seriously starts to ‘saw away’ at the strings. I show him how to gently glide the bow to make a more pleasant sound while his mother watches. Soon, she wants him to move with her to the next booth, but by that time he was sitting in a chair with ‘his’ violin and not going anywhere. I was so proud of my affiliation with the PSO at that point, I had tears in my eyes as I explained to the little boy that he could come back and play with ‘his’ violin later. As he finally surrendered the instrument, I suggested to his mother that this may be an excellent time to look into music lessons for him.”
Denise said that volunteerism is a way of life for their family. She encourages everyone to find something they are passionate about and weave volunteering for that cause into the structure of your family lifestyle.
“Larry and I were both working full time when we joined the PSO family,” said Denise. “We have always loved music and people, so volunteering at the concerts really added no additional time to our schedule. “It wasn’t until the economy took a downturn that we realized nonprofit organizations like the PSO would never be able to provide the music education programs without volunteers performing the many tasks that leave the tiny staff to focus on the more important issues.
“Everyone wants and needs to spend time with our children and grandchildren,” she added. “Teaching young people the value and importance of volunteering does not have to be an extracurricular activity. Make it part of what you do every day anyway.”
The Plano Symphony Orchestra offers many volunteer opportunities for those interested. The organization uses volunteers for its Valentine gala fundraiser, the Collin County Young Artist Competition, as concert services greeters, for the symphony’s education program and instrument petting zoo, in general fundraising, for guest artist transportation, in hospitality positions for concert receptions and events, for membership retention and expansion, for office support help, and in many other ways.
No specific amount of time is required to volunteer, said Teri Janssen, Director of Operations and Education for the Plano Symphony Orchestra. Individuals volunteer the amount of time that works with their schedule, and all needed training and guidance is given on the job.
The Plano Symphony Orchestra currently has more than 200 volunteers that serve almost 5,000 hours per year. Plano Symphony Orchestra Executive Director Debbie Watson is quick to sing the praises of both Larry and Denise.
“They came to the Plano Symphony 10 short years ago,” said Watson.
“They came for their love of music, but quickly discovered an opportunity to fall in love with the PSO family through the opportunities to get involved and feel connected.”
Watson said that Larry and Denise began their financial commitment to the PSO with ruby level membership of the PSO’s Virtuoso Society, and over the years have increased their support to the emerald level and then diamond level.
“The Virtuoso Society is made up of supporters committing to a five-year or more annual pledge. They support the Plano Symphony in many other ways, including numerous gifts to honor or remember special people, auction items for the gala, Alice Hobbs Education Fund, Send Me to the Symphony, numerous and varied in-kind gifts such as airfare for guest artists, wine, food and beverages for PSO events, and the list goes on,” said Watson.
“This couple has donated time, talent and treasure. She is a past president extraordinaire of the Guild and has also served on the Plano Symphony Board of Directors,” added Watson. “Larry serves on the PSO’s IT committee, and he is the “unofficial-official” photographer for the PSO. They both serve countless and tireless volunteer hours. They are both very caring individuals and truly serve the Plano Symphony family…both the people and the organization.”