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Wednesday, Sep 20, 2017
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Republican National Convention host committee needs you

TAMPA - The Tampa Bay Host Committee wants to put a smiling face on Tampa in August when the Republican National Convention comes to town. And the committee wants you, whether you have a smiley face or not. The call went out on Monday for volunteers – to greet visitors at airports, to show them around downtown to mingle in hotel lobbies. Those are the visible ones. Behind the scenes, you don't have to smile, but the committee needs people to help set up events, make gift baskets, coordinate volunteer efforts and do whatever other go-fer tasks need to be done.
In all, host committee folks figure they will need 7,500 volunteers to cover several shifts during the week of the convention. Already, they have 2,000 who have sent emails expressing an interest. Dan Jordan, 77, has thrown his name in the hat. "Well, I heard about the need for the upcoming convention and everything that surrounds that – which is a huge opportunity for us who live here in Bay area," he said. Jordan moved here from Lexington, Ky., in 1973 and fell in love with the area. The convention is a way for him to brag a bit. "It's a chance for people to see our community and understand how wonderful it is," he said. "I love this area. If I had to do it over, I'd have moved sooner." This is the first time he has volunteered for something like this. He's not particularly a political person, but he is excited about being an ambassador for the region. "I love the area and I love our country," he said. "I just want to be involved." Political leanings aren't important, said Ken Jones, host committee president. "This is about Tampa Bay," he said, "not about a particular candidate. The big push for us is volunteerism, not politics." Volunteers won't be working in the Tampa Bay Times Forum during the convention. All those duties will be handled by arena staff and federal security people, he said. The convention is the biggest event to hit Tampa since the Super Bowl three years ago. Tens of thousands are expected to head to the area, along with 15,000 media representatives and many protesters. Those stepping forward will decide what type of work they want to do and attend a one-hour orientation session. Volunteers, who will undergo basic criminal background checks, can pick what they want to do, but they won't be able to choose their shifts. Rather, they will select a timeframe and dates. They will be told over the summer which shifts are available. They will be asked to sign up for two, four-hour shifts. "But we expect many of our volunteers will be putting in more than that," said Amanda Whitelaw, special events and volunteer director for the host committee. All volunteers will get an official uniform to wear during their service, she said. After the convention, the volunteers will be invited to a gathering. Meeting the 7,500 goal won't be a problem, Whitelaw said, and the hope is enough will step forward by June. At the Super Bowl three years ago, she said 6,400 people volunteered their services. "We want people who want to be the face of Tampa Bay," she said.

kmorelli@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7760

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