When Volunteers Become Family

It’s been described as a “family theatre.” Cast, crew, dedicated volunteers and, of course, those audience members that return year after year for performances that have become “classics” and “favorites.” American Folklore Theatre (AFT) is a true Door County classic and two of their most ardent ambassadors are Howard and Patty Williamson.

The Williamsons saw their very first show in 1990 and have been dedicated volunteers ever since. They’ve seen every show ever produced and take incredible pride in the volunteer work that they do for AFT.

“Back in the old days, volunteers weren’t scheduled – they just showed up,” Patty recollects. “We still keep in touch with many of the people we’ve met throughout the years. It’s like a family here.”

The Williamson’s love of volunteering comes from their love of people. Howard refers to both he and Patty as “people people.” He showcases this as he transports theatergoers to and from the parking lot before and after the show. He frequently is overheard asking people where they are from and if they’ve ever experienced the magic of AFT. In his many years of volunteering, Howard’s never heard anyone say that they were disappointed. Not to be outdone by Howard’s enthusiasm for AFT, Patty has written a book documenting the history of AFT titled See You Under the Stars. This book showcases the cast members and shows of AFT, and gives readers a chance to revisit their favorite AFT memories.

And what’s family without food? The cast, crew and volunteers of AFT are never disappointed either, especially when the Williamsons cook one of their famous dinners for them. Keeping with the tradition of true “Southern hospitality,” at least twice a year, the Williamsons prepare and donate the “between show” meal for all to enjoy. Did I mention that they even make homemade peach ice cream?

It’s evident that the Williamsons truly look at AFT as part of their “family” and I’m sure that AFT looks at the Williamsons as the favorite aunt and uncle that everyone can’t wait to see at the family reunion.

Patty’s favorite part of volunteering at AFT? “We love the people and we always get hugs,” she says. “It’s just like being part of the family.”

For information regarding AFT volunteer opportunities and upcoming events visit

For volunteer opportunities at other nonprofit organizations in Door County, visit or contact the Volunteer Center at 920.746.7704.