Volunteer of the Month – Debra Gulinello

by Jillian Keith, TNP, Marketing Coordinator

How do you feel whenever you try something new? Exhilarated? Empowered? Proud? Challenged? Expansive? Happy? These are all words our Volunteer of the Month, Debra Gulinello, used to describe her experience broadening her horizons and volunteering at The Naples Players (TNP).

Debra Gulinello

“I’m always amazed by what I’m able to accomplish volunteering here. There are so many different ways to get involved and the community is so welcome and willing to take you under their wing. I knew nothing – and I mean nothing – and all I’ve done is learn and grow in this supportive environment. I jumped right in, there were no sharks, Anndi’d recommend for everyone to try this incredible experience. It’s fun, it’s a great place to connect with wonderful people and yourself. It’s just a great community within this already incredible community.”

When faced with the potential defeat, deflation, and fear of failing at something new, Debra still took the leap and “found a community that challenges me, allows me to grow, and to be more knowledgeable about something I love.

Debra at a free volunteer dresser workshop

“I moved to Naples knowing that I wanted to spend time volunteering and giving back to my community. It was a massive goal of mine, so as soon as I saw the Education Assistant volunteer position, I inquired.”

“I worked for 30 years in education. I started as a special education teacher for elementary schoolers and then became a high school computer lab teacher. I didn’t want the responsibility of coming up with a lesson plan, so becoming an Education Assistant was perfect for me. I started off working with 5 and 6 year olds – absolutely adorable and amazing! Working with kids is super fulfilling.”

Since volunteering as an Education Assistant, Debra has gone on to volunteer as a dresser for Sylvia, a tree designer for TNP’s Trees and Teas Festival, at our three most recent Front & Center Galas, and backstage for Mary Poppins and Laugh, Cry, Pee, Repeat!

Debra volunteering as a dresser for Sylvia

“I loved volunteering as an Education Assistant, so I decided to try my hand at working backstage for Mary Poppins. I was just so fascinated by the whole process of rehearsing and blocking a show and then making it happen. Seeing a show happening with half-done sets and costumes was mesmerizing, and I just wanted to be there all the time. I worked backstage for seven weeks, and it was an amazing experience. Watching the actors and the way it unfolds -they start with nothing but a vision and the next thing you know it’s a full-blown show.”

“There were several points when I was shocked by what I was doing and what I was capable of. At one point I was moving the roof for Mary Poppins and a 300 lb. set piece was flying down from the air at the same time. There are so many moving parts to a show that you don’t notice until you’re there and doing it. Back home in New York, a group of my friends and I would go to see a Broadway show every month. I’ve always been in love with theatre, but never in a million years would I have thought that I’d be here doing it.”

Debra doesn’t plan on stopping volunteering at TNP any time soon. With new shows ahead and more volunteer opportunities coming up in our new building, she’s eager to keep learning.

“I want to learn everything – acting, stage managing, fly rails, you name it -I love it here. It’s accessible for everyone and is such a great way to make connections and friends. It’s like a giant family here. Our most recent Gala was a real testament to that. The support that this community has for the arts is heartwarming. All over the country, schools and community theatres are cutting back on their music and art programs, and here we are thriving and offering free support to students and families. It’s a miracle.”

Thank you, Debra, for taking a leap of faith and having the courage to try something new here at TNP! It’s been an honor having you be a part of our community.

We love getting new volunteers into the mix! If you’re new to the area or just new to volunteering at TNP, don’t hesitate to join the fun. Test your skills at the next audition, or contact Pamela Larkin Caruso today at 239-434-7340 ext. 104 to find out what other opportunities there are backstage and front of house. Those interested can visit NaplesPlayers.org anytime or call the TNP Box Office at (239) 263-7990.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.