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Volunteers are crucial to the annual success of EXPO

The Mississippi Trademart is roughly 67,000 square feet in size.

For perspective, the building could hold nearly 30 average-sized houses.

That is a rough sketch of the size of the Mississippi Business and Technology EXPO, which kicks off Jan. 14 for the 26th time. The event is a special project of the Mississippi Business Journal. Regular features such as the Best P{;laces to Work in Mississippi Kick-off Breakfast, Business After Hours and the Top 40 Under 40 Luncheon.

Exhibitors, sponsors, partners and EXPO-goers will fill the Trademart to network, learn and socialize at Mississippi’s largest business-to-business gathering.

But there is much work to be done before the party starts.
And that’s why the small army of volunteers and the work they do behind the scenes to keep things running smoothly is so valuable.

“EXPO wouldn’t happen without the enormous amount of help we get from volunteers,” said MBJ advertising representative Ashley Varnes. “Imagine cutting a yard with a pair of scissors and that will give you an idea of what EXPO would be like without our volunteers. It would be impossible.”

Several groups and businesses send volunteers to assist with the logistics of pulling off EXPO.

One of those groups is the Greater Jackson Chamber Partnership, whose Ambassadors Council come early and stay late and are at the beck and call of organizers and exhibitors.

“They do whatever EXPO asks them to do,” said Lynda Raines, director of membership services for the Partnership.

That can entail running errands, answering questions, giving directions or giving advice. EXPO volunteers have to wear a lot of hats, and wear all of them with a smile.

“They help exhibitors set up. They meet and greet as they come in for Top 40 Under 40,” Raines said. “They help set up for Business After Hours. They meet and greet for Business after Hours. They’re true volunteers. They’re not on the payroll. They all have other jobs.”

Long hours and hard work are things that are usually associated with a paycheck. With no monetary reward, EXPO volunteers must possess a strong inner drive and an affinity for helping folks.

“They’ve very dedicated,” Raines said, adding that the Ambassadors Council’s presence goes a long way in promoting the Partnership and its mission of promoting the Jackson area.

EXPO features exhibitors and audience members alike from outside Greater Jackson, so the Ambassadors Council’s mission of spreading goodwill and publicizing the area is critical, Raines said.

“They’re dedicated to the community, the whole economic development area,” she said. “They represent the very best of all of us.”

Volunteer work is something that can easily go unnoticed. That is generally the spirit of volunteering, to labor behind the scenes and out of the spotlight.

“But they need to know that we appreciate them very much,” Varnes said. “Their efforts are as responsible as anybody’s for EXPO having become the annual success that it has. EXPO wouldn’t be EXPO without the substantial contributions of volunteers.”

Contact MBJ staff writer Clay Chandler at clay.chandler@ msbusiness.com .


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