WILMINGTON, NC: The International Festivals and Events Association (IFEA) has named long-time Azalea Festival volunteer Jean A. Lawler as its 2018 Volunteer of the Year. Jean A. Lawler has volunteered with the North Carolina Azalea Festival for over 50 years, and served as its President in 2017. Jean will accept the Volunteer of the Year Award at the 63rd Annual IFEA Annual Convention and Expo in San Diego this October.
About the Award
Whether an individual acts as a volunteer administrator of an event or contributes his or her time and resources in support of a larger, multi-event organization with a paid staff, the efforts that are put forth by volunteers to our festivals and events deserve our heartiest congratulations and recognition. It is for that reason that the IFEA Volunteer of the Year Award was created.
The IFEA Volunteer of the Year Award recognizes those outstanding event volunteers whose unselfish and dedicated service to a member festival or event has made a significant difference in their community and mirrors the commitment to success in our professional ranks.
About Jean A. Lawler
Jean A. Lawler has served the North Carolina Azalea Festival in almost every way imaginable. She began her Festival journey in 1960- and has since given over fifty years of continual service to the Azalea Festival. For many years she served as committee chair for the Festival’s Souvenir Book, and thereafter served as Concerts Ushers chair for numerous years. In 2014 Jean stepped onto the Board of Directors, where she eventually held the role of Azalea Festival President in 2017. Jean continues sharing her legacy by staying involved in the Festival, even as a Past President. We continue to see Jean at every event… she’s always up-front smiling and cheering everyone on! Not only that, after her presidency Jean continues to volunteer as chauffeur for our the Azalea Princess, driving her in various regional Parades. Additionally, Jean continues to support the Festival financially as a Festival Patron.
In her life Jean has made an impact throughout Wilmington, not only within the Azalea Festival. Jean was one of the first female sales representative in Wilmington. She is the Vice President of Wilmington WWII Home Front Coalition. Always helping others, she was the volunteer coordinator for 4 WWII Honor Flights from Wilmington, NC to the WWII Memorial in Washington, DC. Jean also is a proud Seahawk Club Member and former president of the Seahawk Club for the University of North Carolina Wilmington. She was awarded the William J. Brooks Distinguished Service Award by UNCW. The Daughters of the American Revolution awarded her an “Excellence in Community Service” award. She was also inducted into the “Order of the Vikings” for her volunteerism at John T. Hoggard High School. She is also an American Red Cross VIP Blood Donor. She has served on numerous boards with Bradley Creek Marina, Hanover Seaside Club, and Cape Fear Museum to name a few. Jean was a founding organizer and chair of the inaugural “Enchanted Airlie,” a holiday light show at historic Airlie Gardens, now in its 14th year. Jean also supports the Parrot Head Club, Step up for Soldiers, Toys for Tots, and is a mean shagger!
Within the Azalea Festival, Jean served as committee chair of two of its larger committees. She first began as Souvenir Book chair. In this role she was tasked with selling advertising and the creation of a bound, commemorative souvenir book. She had to work under very tight deadlines and with many people whose financial support was crucial to the Festival. The Azalea Festival Souvenir Book later grew to become an IFEA Pinnacle Award winner. Jean also worked for many years as the chair of the Concerts Ushers committee. This committee has seen many transformations throughout the years. With the dawn of online ticketing in the 2000’s, Jean had to retrain her front entrance volunteers to use ticketing scanners and new technology. In 2013, Jean and her team had another huge transition when the Azalea Festival moved the Concerts from an inside, reserved seating coliseum to an outdoor, general admission standing room venue. Jean and her team, again, had to re-configure their roles to include managing more attendees (3x more attendance) and dealing with changes that go into managing an outdoor, open-standing venue.
In 2014 Jean stepped in to fill a vacancy on the Festival Board of Directors, and continued on the board until 2017 when she became the 70th President of the North Carolina Azalea Festival. During this time on the board she was an avid supporter of all volunteers and staff, always offering to stop by the office or show up to any event early to help setup. It was during this time Jean showcased herself as a servant leader – she always puts the needs of others first and encourages everyone to perform as highly as possible. Jean makes it a point to welcome everyone she can to Festival events. As Board President, she stood at the front entrance of the Volunteer Appreciation party and literally thanked every person who entered. Jean doesn’t care if a person gives 100 hours or 1 hour to the Festival; all deserve to be thanked and appreciated.
Jean’s lasting impact on the Festival is most easily seen through this love and support of her fellow volunteers. During her Presidential year the Azalea Festival established an Emeritus Chair Program, in large part due to Jean’s calling to thank the hardest workers of the Festival. This was the Festival’s way to honor volunteers who served 10 or more years in a chair or co-chair capacity on an Azalea Festival committee. To date the Festival has 22 Emeritus volunteers who will forever be honored…not to mention the many more Emeritus members to come in future years. Immediately after Jean gave up her presidency the Emeritus Program was re-named the Jean A. Lawler Emeritus Program in her honor not only as a volunteer herself, but for her inspiration in creating this program. A few months after Jean’s presidency, the Azalea Festival won the North Carolina Governor’s Medallion Award for Volunteer Service, another nod to all the efforts Jean led to honor our volunteers.
About the International Festivals and Events Association
Headquartered in Boise, Idaho, the International Festivals & Events Association (IFEA) is The Premier Association Supporting and Enabling Festival & Event Professionals Worldwide. In partnership with global affiliates under the umbrellas of IFEA Africa, IFEA Asia, IFEA Australia, IFEA Europe, IFEA Latin America, IFEA Middle East (MENASA), and IFEA North America, the organization’s common vision is for “A Globally United Industry that Touches Lives in a Positive Way through Celebration.” The Association offers the most complete source of ideas, resources, information, education and networking for festival and event professionals worldwide. Visit the IFEA website at www.ifea.com for additional details.