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Bringing diversity to WEG

Since her mother died eight years ago, Carolyn Greene has made monthly visits to Lexington from New York City to check on her stepfather.

During one of her visits last year, Greene, an attorney, read about the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games coming to the Bluegrass and immediately knew she wanted to be a part of that historic first.

"I said, 'I want to do this,'" Greene said recently with probably the same level of enthusiasm as when she first read the article.

She signed on as a volunteer and discovered she could get her feet wet by working the various test events that were scheduled last summer in preparation for the competitions Sept. 25 - Oct. 10, 2010.

"I volunteered for every single day for every single test event to find out where I wanted to be," said Greene, 63. "That's when it became apparent to me that I was the only person of color."

There were no people of color serving as volunteers, grooms, staff or attendees, she said.

That would not do.

For 16 days, Lexington will be on a world stage with national and international media peering in on us from more than 60 countries. Some 600,000 visitors are expected in the Bluegrass. What better time to show off our diversity?

So, Greene has accepted the challenge, still as an unpaid volunteer, to recruit more diversity to the ranks of the 10,000 or more volunteers who will be needed to keep the Games running smoothly.

"I have never attended an Olympics or Super Bowl," she said, "and I saw this as an opportunity to become engaged and to help to showcase Lexington. I care a lot about Lexington. I have friends and family and good memories here. I wanted to do my part."

Greene, whose official volunteer title is the volunteer recruitment and events coordinator, believes everyone should be as excited about helping with the Games as she is, and she wants more young people, more people of color, and more people with special needs to sign up for four six-hour shifts during the Games.

She has already recruited her son who works with Homeland Security and her brother who spent 24 years in the U.S. Air Force.

Volunteers are given free food during their shift and free access to competitions throughout the events, although that access would be standing room only.

Although she is recruiting for all areas, her focus in on the 3,700 people, 18 years old and older, needed for such services as ticket-taking, ushering, parking, directing traffic and shuttling people to and from parking areas and hotels. All volunteers will undergo background checks before being trained at no cost and issued a uniform.

I think she has a very difficult task before her and told her so.

Not many people around here understand the World Games or fully comprehend the competitions. Actually, some may see the Games solely as the terrain of the rich.

Jamie Link, chief executive officer of the World Games 2010 Foundation, Inc., said the board has resolved to be inclusive with both minority vendors and volunteers.

"To me, it is more than an aim," Link said. "It is a goal, a mission. But it is up to each individual to participate."

Link isn't sure how many minority volunteers have signed up because race is not a category on the volunteer registration. However, the WEG foundation has contracted with National Diversity Solutions to find certified businesses owned by women and other minorities.

D. McGinnis Mitchell, founder, president and CEO of NDS, said 339 women-owned businesses and 139 minority-owned business have qualified to contract with the foundation to fill janitorial, technology consulting, media, advertising, printing and sign-making work.

Those vendors will be paid. That's their incentive.

Getting folks to volunteer just for the love of the sport is not going to be easy.

"I know," Greene said. "I don't recall having a job that was easy. I'm not looking for easy. If I were, I would take my retirement and go live on a beach."

Greene was born in Detroit before her parents divorced and her mother moved back to Lexington in the 1950s.

She attended Dunbar High School for a couple of years before heading back to Detroit, where her parents thought she'd get a better education.

Greene returned to Lexington to attend the University of Kentucky and then UK Law School.

Since then she has lived in 20 to 25 places working in fields such as human rights, nuclear power plant licensing, the cable industry and labor law.

She was laid off in January and is looking, but not too hard, for a new position.

Although she is excited about volunteering for the Games, being in Lexington is not permanent.

"I still have my New York apartment and I plan on returning there," she said. Her voice quiets a bit before saying, "Because I need New York."

But while she's here, she hopes to bring a little of the diversity that exists in that metropolitan city to Lexington and the Games.

"I think this is an opportunity for our youth," Greene said. "If they are exposed to (the equestrian world) then that can become another option maybe as a career or a hobby."

Greene, who plans to volunteer every day of the event, views volunteering at WEG as a once in a lifetime opportunity.

"I don't know how much more of a difference I can make here, but I am certainly going to try," she said.

To register to become a volunteer, go to www.alltechfeigames.com and click on "Volunteer."

If you are still hesitant, "I am willing to go and chat with anyone or any group to transfer some of my passion," Greene said. "We should all be involved and should all be excited."

She can be reached at (859) 244-2946 or (502) 542-0335.

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