Volunteer army: Cincinnati's secret weapon for the 2015 MLB All-Star Game

Addison, Chavez lead All Star organizing committee

CINCINNATI - Sharry Addison is a modern-day Cincinnatus.

Like the general for whom Cincinnati is named, a citizen soldier who left his farm to defend Rome against invaders in 458 B.C., Addison returns periodically to lead Cincinnati’s volunteer army.

She started in 1983, planning for the World Figure Skating Championships in 1987.  And she led the charge for just about every major civic event since then, including the 1988 All Star Game, five Tall Stacks celebrations, the NCAA Women’s Final Four in 1997 and the World Choir Games in 2012.

Now, Addison is assuming the leadership mantel one more time, as co-chair of the organizing committee for the 2015 MLB All-Star Game. Joining her is Melanie Chavez, a principal with Chavez Properties who is active in the Junior League of Cincinnati and serves on the finance committee of the Cincinnati Opera board.

“I agreed to do it if I could have a young co-chair,” Addison said. “She has corralled a lot of these new young professionals who’ve never done anything like this. I’m the wise old owl, the mentor and advisor, passing on the wealth we’ve accumulated over the years.”

The organizing committee will be in charge of hospitality and logistics for all events outside of Great American Ball Park and MLB Fan Fest at Duke Energy Center downtown. An estimated 2,500 volunteers will be needed for All Star week next year, including about 1,500 who will be directed by Major League Baseball.

Other volunteers will help visitors find their way around town, organize parties in local hotels and staff public events at Fountain Square, Washington Park and the Cincinnati riverfront.

“Our role will be to handle all the activities outside of the ball park,” Addison said. “We are going to make Cincinnati shine.”

It’s a heartwarming Cincinnati story. Addison and Chavez had never met prior to January, when they were introduced by organizing committee member Amelia Crutcher, chair of board development at the Cincinnati Parks Foundation.

Six months later, they’re surprised by how many mutual friends they have and how much they are alike.

“We’re both very driven,” Chavez said. “We don’t rest on our laurels. If a phone call needs to be made, we’ll make it.”

When they first met for lunch, Chavez told Addison she wanted to set up their next meeting.

“I said, ‘Let’s get out our calendars,’” Addison recalled. “She said, ‘No, I mean tomorrow.’”

By the next day, Chavez had pulled together an organizational chart that divides up duties, including transportation, finance, volunteers and diversity and inclusion.

In addition to Addison, Chavez and Crutcher, other members of the organizing committee include Lauren Bosse, senior major gifts officer at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, World Choir Games organizer Deb Lawrence and Marty Humes, a Wyoming resident whose civic activism has included leadership roles for the Cincinnati Parks Foundation, Dress for Success and WCET’s Action Auction.

Those organizers will benefit from a regional database of community volunteers that was built for the World Choir Games and has since expanded to 5,000 names. Volunteers who sign up on “The Welcomers” web site are regularly notified of opportunities to volunteer for the Cincinnati Zoo, Newport Aquarium, the Cincinnati Arts Association and public events and conventions where Cincinnati docents or local ambassadors are needed.

"That's a huge advantage for us," said Phil Castellini, Cincinnati Reds chief operating officer. "I really think Cincinnati's going to be in great shape to host this. I think the league's going to be pleasantly surprised at how prepared we are to take on this event."

Addison heard in April that organizers of the Minneapolis All Star Game were still searching for volunteers to host this week’s events in the Twin Cities. Based on her experience in Cincinnati, that mystified her.

“Cincinnatians just give,” Addison said. “They give of their time. I don’t know why it happens except that we are friendly, warm people in the Midwest. It’s just who we are.”

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