During a long ride, having a cheerful volunteer hand out snacks or help air up your tires certainly is a nice perk. These people provide much needed support to help alleviate the event’s workload, and help things run smoothly. Some events even rely on the support of high level volunteers who can tackle advanced projects to ensure a successful event.
So just who are these people who donate the time? And why would someone opt to volunteer instead of ride?
Miriam Steierman probably knows about this more than almost any other Oregon rider. The veteran volunteer has spent years volunteering for a slew of events, including Harvest Century, Cycle Oregon, Portland Century, Portland Sunday Parkways, Jackson’s Ride the Gorge and many others.
Miriam describes herself as “a joyful 60+ woman who loves to help others and work hard and ride my bike.” We’ve gotten to know her over the years through her volunteer work, so we decided to sit down with Miriam to learn more about the wild world of event volunteering.
Why do you like volunteering for bike events?
I get great joy from the experience of volunteering. I love chatting with the participants
Describe one of your favorite events.
Sunday Parkways is by far my favorite event. I love “racing” with the little kids or carrying their bikes when they are too tired – and mom and dad just don’t know what to do. I enjoy talking and smiling to riders (and drivers too) even when the weather is bad.
We know it’s not all roses out there. Describe one of your worst volunteer experiences.
I was working on an event’s site team. It was very hard, unappreciated work. I was very sore and tired all the time for days on end. Never again!
Okay, so being made to feel appreciated is clearly important. Aside from that, how do you decide what events to spend your time on?
I normally volunteer for people I have known for a while, like Axiom Event Productions (Harvest Century, Bike MS, Portland Sunday Parkways and others) and Good Sport Promotion (Petal Pedal, Portland Century, Worst Day of the Year Ride and others).
If the event is new event and they need volunteers, I’ll probably sign up. If they succeed, I’ll probably come back the next year if they want me. It’s just that simple.
What should someone take into consideration when volunteering for an event?
Volunteering takes time and effort. I highly dislike when people sign up to volunteer for an event and then don’t show up. It’s important to follow through and be reliable.
What are common mistakes most people make when signing up to volunteer for an event, or while volunteering?
A common mistake is knowing what the job entails, not knowing how much time the job will take. Also, not listening to veteran volunteers who are trying to make their job easier by providing helpful information.
What are some common mistakes event organizers make in regards to their volunteers?
My biggest irritation is when my job as a volunteer is not appreciated, like the scenario I mentioned.
Often event managers don’t train their volunteers appropriately. Sometimes they also really miss the mark by not reaching out the following year of the event, or not giving enough attention to the volunteers who go the extra mile and are reliable.
What’s the most rewarding aspect of volunteering for bike events?
I would have to say: contributing to the success of the event, any event.