By Lauren Zeugner
Chautauqua-Wawasee has come a long way in the last few years. Mary Moretto of Syracuse became active in Chautauqua-Wawasee through her good friend, Marlies West.
At the time Ann Strong and West were developing the programing. As an educator, Moretto was excited about where Chautauqua-Wawasee was going and started to volunteer. “That’s how I got into it, following Marlies,” she said. Moretto teaches at Trine University teaching in the masters of leadership program.
Moretto and her husband live next door to Oakwood and usually walk through Oakwood Park on a regular basis.
Back when Chautauqua-Wawasee was just getting starting it needed a vision and a mission. It was recommended Moretto be hired to assist in the development of the organization’s mission. She was working with several board members at the time and eventually joined Chautauqua’s board of directors.
“I just love volunteering. I like the hands on work and meeting people. I like the planning too,” she said. In the beginning, Chautauqua wasn’t offering full year programing, but the current board has been working on changing that.
And Moretto wants people in the community to know Chautauqua-Wawasee is always looking for volunteers. “Chautauqua is an all volunteer organization. No one is paid,” she said. If there’s an event someone is interested in, they are more than welcome to help.
“You don’t have to volunteer with all the events. you can do one, three or all. Whatever you want,” she said.
Not only is Chautauqua-Wawasee looking for more volunteers, but also for people with ideas for future programming. So far, Chautauqua has teamed up with the Syracuse-Wawasee Historical Museum for a program on Native Americans in the area and the Syracuse Public Library for a quarterly book discussion. Other programming partners include Parkview Health and the YMCA. “You’ve got to know what the people around you want,” Moretto said about programming.
Chautauqua-Wawasee has also partnered with the Wawasee Area Conservancy Foundation on a recent program, “Gardening in the Face of a Changing Climate,” which was extremely popular, drawing attendees from South Bend and Fort Wayne as well as the surrounding area.
The Chautauqua model offers four pillars: art, education, religion and recreation to base programming around. Moretto said the religion pillar is often the hardest to touch on.
She is especially proud Chautauqua-Wawasee is part of the Chautauqua Trail, a group of Chautauqua organizations that in some way relate to the original Chautauqua in Chautauqua, N.Y.
There are six people who serve on the board, which is looking to grow. “We need people to come on with an expertise in something,” Moretto said.
Most of the events offered by Chautauqua-Wawasee are free of charge as long as donors can be found to underwrite the programs. The next Chautauqua-Wawasee event will be “CBD: Pros & Cons,” which will be held from 6:30-7:30 p.m. May 12.
Moretto also works at Harvest Coffee, where she started as a baker. “Just about anything they’ve bake, I’ve done,” she said. She especially likes to make the gluten free items. She also volunteers at her church, Horizon Church in Bremen.
Anyone interested in becoming a volunteer can call (574) 377-7543 and leave a message including phone number and email address.