By Billy Diep
Kathy Mandzak is in her grey Second Skin sweater talking into a walkie-talkie. She stands with a group of volunteers inside the Guest Services booth just by the main entrance of Rexall Centre. Hundreds of people are entering the grounds. It’s the opening weekend of Rogers Cup presented by National Bank, but for Kathy, it’s just like summer camp.
“For that week, you’re there with your friends and it’s nice to come back to that relationship,” she says.
Kathy is the Committee Head for Guest Services and has been volunteering at Rogers Cup for 28 years. She was looking for something to get her out of the house when her friend, Wanda Restivo, also a volunteer at Rogers Cup, asked her if she was interested. She agreed and signed up.
“I have four children, so it was kind of like a week just for me. Kind of selfish in a way, but it was good for me to just get out of my house and do something different.”
Every day in Guest Services is different. Even after 28 years, there are still questions that are new to her and at times it can be a little overwhelming. As a committee head, Kathy starts at 9 a.m. and on most nights is here until 11 p.m. She says it’s her passion to help people that get her through the long hours while still having fun.
“I like people to walk away with a smile. I like them to feel like they’ve paid for something and they’ve been treated well and it’s been a good experience for them, so they’ll want to come back next year.”
It’s a very rewarding experience when you’re able to help someone, she says. Kathy admits she’s more inclined to help elderly people. She likes to be the go-to person who deals with their problem instead of sending them along to someone else.
Kathy is a retired teacher for the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB), and for teachers, the job never really ends, especially because many of her past students volunteer at Rogers Cup and look up to her in a different role. Kathy also volunteers her time at TCDSB schools and works with children with special needs.
Working as a teacher, Kathy had summers off and was able to volunteer at Rogers Cup without worrying about taking time off work, so people who do just that impress her.
“I think it’s really awesome they take their holidays and they volunteer here. Some of them are really big tennis players and like to watch tennis. Some, like me, just like to have the camaraderie of seeing their friends.”
For new volunteers, Kathy’s advice is: “To enjoy the experience. To expect to be tired and perhaps overwhelmed, certainly at Guest Services because it’s a little overwhelming with thousands of questions. To meet new people and not to be afraid; everyone will help you along. You’ll make mistakes but that’s how you learn.”