Behind Every Volunteer There is a Story

June 28, 2012

Last year I was so inspired by our annual Volunteers Guild brunch that I made it the centerpiece of one of my blogs.  Some things never change!  On Saturday, June 9th, we saluted over 100 Volunteer Guild members and their friends and families on our Wasserman Campus in Woodland Hills, and once again I was blown away by the hours of service and the dedication and commitment this group displays.  Just to give you an idea of what I’m talking about, the good folks we awarded service pins to that night collectively have spent over 140,000 hours volunteering for MPTF!  (Yes, that’s the right number, 140,000 hours!)

Behind every volunteer there’s a story – of what they do/did in the industry, when they retired, and what led them to volunteering.  No matter the age, no matter the stage in their career, no matter the motive for volunteering, no matter the volunteer “assignment,” every one of our volunteers says same the same thing:  “I get more out of my volunteering at MPTF than I can ever give.”

Let me introduce you to just a few of our volunteers.  Maybe you’ll see yourself in one of them and want to take on the same mission they have. 

Leslie Mann’s grandfather, Ben Wurtzel, a production manager and construction supervisor in the 1930s and 1940s on such films as How Green Was My Valley, Blood & Sand, and Buffalo Bill, was part of Jean Hersholt’s team when the Woodland Hills campus was acquired for MPTF in 1941.  Both of Leslie’s parents were volunteers at MPTF and her mother was a president of the Volunteer Guild.  Her mother also lived and eventually passed away on our campus.  Leslie was a third generation industry member, working on the administrative side for 20 years.  Leslie currently volunteers in the marketing department, an activity that she says gives her “great joy and pleasure.”

Another multi-generational volunteer is Mike Caiozzo, an IATSE Local 44 member who followed in his father’s footsteps and began volunteering on the MPTF campus after he retired from the industry.  Mike now volunteers three days a week at Channel 22, our in-house production group, doing video editing and voiceovers – two new skills he’s learned on the job.  When we launched the Every Member Campaign for IATSE members, Mike threw himself into that effort remarking how nice it was to “see the unions come together to support the Fund.”  About his volunteering effort for MPTF, Mike has said:  “It gave me a new purpose in life.  I was retired, but I wasn’t ready to be put out to pasture.”  Mike joins me and some other volunteers and a group of male residents every month for a Men’s Club breakfast at IHOP – a raucous way to start the morning!

Another of our Men’s Club kibitzers is Bart Bartlett, who was introduced to MPTF through the annual NBC/Universal holiday party on campus.  Bart was working at the local NBC affiliate selling ad time and so enjoyed the holiday parties and the residents he met there that, in 2009 when he retired from the industry, he joined our volunteer group as a Pool Buddy.  His other volunteering skill, and I hear he’s quite good at it, is that he calls the bingo games for the residents every Friday.  (Bart says calling bingo around here is no laughing matter:  “These people take bingo VERY seriously.”  Apparently, resident Connie Sawyer, the oldest living member of the Motion Picture Academy, has advised him several times that he needs to enunciate the numbers more clearly when he calls them out!)  Bart says the highlight of his Pool Buddy volunteering is seeing one of his buddies move from needing an aquatic wheelchair to walking in and out of the pool on her own.   It doesn’t get much better than that!

And then there’s Patrick Fischler – you may know him from Patrick’s Roadhouse, named after him by his dad Bill, or from his recurring roles in LOST (Phil) or Mad Men (the comedian Jimmy Barrett whose wife was one of Don’s “girls”) or many other episodic TV series and films.  Patrick was looking for a place to volunteer and heard about MPTF, where he’s now helping out on Fridays at the clay class and on Wednesdays with iPhone/iPad classes for the residents.  “I go home and tell my wife all the time how it is changing me as a person.  At dinner parties I am always preaching that this is something that all of us should be doing,” he says.  In his time volunteering at MPTF, Patrick has been reminded how interconnected the industry community really is.  On his first day helping out at the clay class, Patrick met resident Lea Gould, who it turned out knew his father Bill.  To make things even more interesting, Patrick also discovered that he had actually played the younger version of Lea’s late husband, actor Harold Gould, on an episode of the TV show Cold Case.  Another volunteering highlight for Patrick was when he was helping resident Monica Lewis with her iPhone during class and she started playing a song she had in her library.  Patrick told her how much he liked the song and Monica revealed that it was actually something she recorded back in the 1940s!

First generation, multi-generation, working actor or retired set builder, Pool Buddy or administrative support, the stories change but at their very core they are all very much the same.  Our industry is a community, at one time or another we have had to rely one another. And, the old adage is certainly true for us, whatever we give through volunteering and helping our community we get back tenfold. I’m proud to say that another generation of my family is volunteering at MPTF right now – a 20-year old showing 90+ year old residents how to optimize their new tech toys – and enjoying himself immensely.  If any of this rings true to you, please do yourself a favor and join our volunteer corps!

About Bob Beitcher

Bob Beitcher is the President and CEO of the Motion Picture & Television Fund. He has been a senior executive in the entertainment industry for 30 years, having held leadership roles at Jim Henson Productions, Paramount Pictures, Panavision and MacAndrews & Forbes Media Group. Bob has been an MPTF board member since 2007. He became interim CEO in 2010 and was named permanent CEO in 2011.

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