Volunteers Shape Our Story: MPTF Celebrates the advocates who take care of our own

December 10, 2014

For many years, volunteerism has been an essential part of the MPTF story; essential, but unspoken. Our on-campus Volunteer Guild members put in 35,000 hours of volunteer time annually and we were certain to thank them – but not to celebrate them, or at least not to celebrate them enough. And the same is true for our growing cadre of community volunteers, now contributing 5,000 hours annually helping support members of our entertainment industry in the community with programs like Home Safety, grocery shopping, computer tutoring, and much more.

2014 Advocacy Appreciation Party

Three years ago, we decided to do something about this. Welcome the birth of MPTF’s Advocacy Appreciation event at CBS Radford Studios. On November 22nd, we hosted the 3rd such event, and thanks to the brilliant efforts of Derek Krull, MPTF Constituent Development Manager, over 260 advocates and would-be advocates (every advocate was invited to bring an industry friend) networked and celebrated their volunteerism on New York street. (Many thanks as well to Joe Soukup, Vice President and General Manager of CBS Radford, for his generous support of our organization for many years!)

What I heard from our advocates on that Saturday night is a consistent theme: “thanks for your thanks, but volunteering for MPTF has done much more for me than I could possibly do for those I’m helping.” In discussing loyalty to community and life autonomy in his recent book BEING MORTAL (which I highly recommend), Atul Gawande says: “All we ask is to be allowed to remain the writers of our own story. That story is ever changing. Over the course of our lives, we may encounter unimaginable difficulties. Our concerns and desires may shift. But whatever happens, we want to retain the freedom to shape our lives in ways consistent with our character and loyalties.” To me, this is very much the core of our MPTF advocates –they continue to write their own stories and give their lives meaning through support of a community that has in one way or another shaped (or is continuing to shape) them, and this enables those with whom they work so closely to do the very same thing.

MPTF Volunteer Peter Dunne

Quite literally, in two cases that I can think of, a community and campus volunteer are working with industry members to shape their stories. David Weiser, assistant editor and Computer Tutor volunteer, is helping Joyce Wakefield from SAG-AFTRA with her screenplay, and has established a relationship that extends far, far beyond tech support. And writer-producer (and WGA member) Peter Dunne, leads a Writer’s Workshop on MPTF’s campus that weekly attracts over a dozen residents who are engaged in writing memoirs, novels, poetry, short stories, and screenplays and generously support each other in their creative endeavors. Both David and Peter would tell you that creativity lasts a lifetime, the urge to tell interesting and compelling stories never ends, and the ability to help others achieve their goals in this regard is truly life-changing.

I can only encourage all of you who are not already volunteering at MPTF or elsewhere to consider it as a vital part of your own life story. For those of you who are very new to the industry, like David Weiser above, or have made a successful career in the industry like Peter Dunne, “taking care of our own” can be an undertaking that enriches others while satisfying an urge in ourselves to give back to the community. There are few better ways to honor our time.


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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