Barbara “Babs” Lemon, is December’s winner of the Gold Star Award for Excellence in Volunteering. Rose City would not have the image and brand it has without her. Find out more about Babs in our interview with our latest award winner.
Carrie: How did you first learn about the Rose City Rollers (RCR)?
Babs: I heard that there was roller derby in Portland, and I love roller derby. Around the same time I happened to see a Craigslist posting advertising for a volunteer graphic designer for Rose City. It sounded like fun, something different from what I do normally. I started researching RCR and went to a bout. I was totally amazed by the production and everything about it. I was amazed they could pull off a bout with all volunteers. I have worked for companies where they couldn’t get half that stuff done and they pay people a lot of money.
The first bout I saw was at the Expo Center, the season opener, probably three or four years ago. Everything about it was so well done, the volunteers to help seat people, provide security, and everyone was so happy. I knew for sure I wanted to work with the group and see who all these people were.
So I applied for the graphics position and actually had to go to an interview for it. It was the most thorough, well-done, informative interview I had ever been on. That clinched it for me.
How are you involved with RCR?
I am the Art Director for the organization. I volunteer about 40+ hours a month. I do the design for all the bouts, and all the ads, the t-shirt designs. There are a lot of marketing pieces and little things that come up periodically. I do them as long as I can fit them in. I also am helping out a number of other volunteer graphic designers, mentoring them. So I work with them on a number of projects.
Why have you stayed involved?
I just really like what RCR stands for. I am a big advocate of team sports for women. I am really happy to see more of these opportunities for women. I like that they put in time to volunteer and support local non-profits. I am happy to support a group that is happy to pull together and work towards a common goal.
The variety of people involved and the quality of their backgrounds is really outstanding. It is something you don’t find everywhere. It’s a great effort to support.
What was your favorite volunteer experience?
I think it’s finally starting to develop a cohesive graphic look for RCR. We did it last year and we are fine-tuning it for next year’s look. That has been fun and challenging. It has helped things go a lot easier as far as graphics that are needed throughout the year. I enjoy working with the people that I do.
What is your day job?
I am a freelance graphic designer. I specialize in food product packaging and I do packaging for a lot of the major bakeries and food distributors around. I did Dave’s Killer Bread and Franz. I do salsa, breads, cookies, and cakes. And the marketing pieces that go with it. It’s hard work because I am designing against myself, with competing products on the shelf. But it’s fun to go into a store and see all the products that I have done.
Do you have a favorite team or former team?
No, that’s the hard part. I openly support Wheels because I can. Otherwise, I don’t want to play favorites. I think it’s great that they are skating and that it’s finally being taken seriously because it’s a rugged sport. I wish I had derby when I was younger.
Do you have a favorite skater or former skater?
I really like the strength of White Flight. And her intensity. All of the skaters on Wheels are intense but with White Flight you can really feel it when you are watching and when you see her skate. [Note: White Flight retired from Wheels of Justice and Rose City Rollers after Western Region Playoffs in September.]
How has RCR changed since you began volunteering?
I think they have gotten better, even more organized and focused. And that’s what you hope for with an organization, that it just keeps improving and moving forward. It’s so easy to sit on your laurels and become stagnant.
Is there anything RCR could do better for its volunteers?
It’s a tough one because the volunteers run the gamut. Some volunteers don’t care if they get awards or go to parties. I think RCR is really good about being appreciative. You can tell the volunteers are happy and they keep coming back. As long as RCR keeps moving forward and volunteers can go watch the fun bouts, the volunteers will be happy,
How does it feel to be a Gold Star Award for Excellence in Volunteering winner?
Oh gee. Honestly, I just like to stay behind the scenes and do my thing so it feels a little odd. I will wear the crown and get the award and that’s fine. Honestly, there are a lot of volunteers that have been around longer that should be honored. Just the crews that set up the bouts, holy cow, that’s a lot of work. I can fit this in between waiting for the printer to spool or waiting for a client. I have it a lot easier than setting up the bouts. RCR has a lot of great volunteers.
Where and when was your favorite volunteer afterparty and how many free PBRs did you have?
I almost went to one. I can’t drink like I used to when I was younger. I plan on going to some. There are a lot of people who I would like to meet in person and have a chance to talk to.
Do you think you will ever stop being a part of RCR?
No, I would like to volunteer in some capacity as long as I can. Eventually, I need to train someone to take over as Art Director but I will always do graphics for them. I could stay on but you need new blood to rejuvenate things.
Any suggestions for new volunteers or those considering volunteering with RCR?
Just work hard and have fun.
I used to rock climb, I had to develop my own harnesses because they didn’t have anything for women. I like that RCR develops programs for younger girls and that they have developed internships to expand and teach other women skills they wouldn’t have the opportunity to learn otherwise. There are very qualified women doing very skilled jobs as volunteers. I like the idea they are helping women learn those skills too. Women working together, that’s huge.
Interview by Carrie Huffman