West Windsor Arts to Honor 2024 Volunteers of the Year

Their spirit and passion for the arts have made a considerable impact on the nonprofit organization.

By: Apr. 16, 2024
West Windsor Arts to Honor 2024 Volunteers of the Year
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In recognition of National Volunteer Month, West Windsor Arts has named Shaheen Shahnaz and Latoya Edwards as its Adult Volunteers of the Year and Sharaya Gala and Aarohi Honap as its Student Volunteers of the Year.

These four extraordinary individuals are being honored not only for donating their time and talents to the arts center, but also for inspiring others to join them in giving back. Their shared community spirit and passion for the arts have made a considerable impact on the nonprofit organization.

“It is with the support of such an engaged group of volunteers that we are able to enrich our community with innovative, creative programming,” says Aylin Green, Executive Director, West Windsor Arts. “Every year we shine a spotlight on volunteers who have gone above and beyond in supporting our mission. Yet, it is the collective efforts and energy of all our volunteers that sustain our organization.”

This past year, more than 263 individuals volunteered in various capacities at West Windsor Arts, from running exhibitions and event support to fundraising and advisory board participation. Their individual contributions are greatly appreciated and valued.

Each of the 2024 Volunteers of the Year noted ways in which their own lives were enriched through community service:

Shaheen Shahnaz began volunteering at West Windsor Arts in 2022 as a way to connect with the community. “It felt natural to become part of the Exhibition Committee and watch each exhibition come to life, making something out of nothing,” Shaheen explains. Working on the arts center’s “Off the Wall” art show, one of the biggest of the year, she took the time to get familiar with each artist’s biography and their craft. This made the experience even more meaningful to her.

“The time I have spent at West Windsor Arts has been very stimulating, and has helped me to reconnect to my creative side, whether organizing the artwork, meeting the artists and other volunteers, or designing opening night games,” she says. “There is a lot more that can be done to promote arts in the community, and I hope to be part of all that wonderful work.”
 
Latoya Edwards, who is the President of the West Windsor–Plainsboro African American Parent Support Group, first engaged with West Windsor Arts when her daughter was taking art classes. For the past six years, Latoya has worked closely with West Windsor Arts as a partner for its Annual MLK Day of Service, helping to ensure its success. She has consistently gone above and beyond in promoting the event on social media platforms, coordinating the volunteers, and expressing gratitude to donors for their generous contributions. Her efforts have helped to facilitate thousands of donations to numerous local organizations.
 
“Being able to collect and donate to great organizations while interacting with the community is so rewarding,” says Latoya. “Volunteering, driven by a servant’s heart, fills my soul.”

High school student Sharaya Gala has been volunteering at West Windsor Arts since 2022. It was the first place she ever volunteered. She recalls being a “ball of nerves” on her first day, but also being welcomed with warmth and enthusiasm. “My time at West Windsor Arts taught me many things, but the most important one is summed up in this quote by Martin Luther King Jr.: ‘Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the full staircase.’”
 
While volunteering, she met many people who positively impacted her life. One artist in particular talked to her about the inspiration behind his art. “He mentioned how he began exploring a unique art form when he was in his 50s, and that really struck a chord with me,” she relays.
 
The experience inspired her to create her own art business, something she never thought was possible, called Colors for Critters, which donates 40 percent of its proceeds to local animal shelters. “I wanted to still give back to the community the same way I did at West Windsor Arts. Without West Windsor Arts, I wouldn’t be able to sell my art, support a cause I care about and, at long last, take that first step.”
 
Aarohi Honap is a high school junior who began volunteering for West Windsor Arts in 2022. Since then, she’s had the unique opportunity to work at events on the Special Events Crew with other volunteers with similar passions and interests. For Aarohi, volunteering, whether it was Summer Music, the Tuesday Crew or art show openings, has been so memorable because of the people and surrounding communities. “Learning from my supervisors and fellow volunteers made my experiences at West Windsor Arts so fun, and I’m extremely grateful to have these opportunities to give back to my community,” she says.
 
“West Windsor Arts sends a sincere thank you to Shaheen Shahnaz, Latoya Edwards, Sharaya Gala and Aarohi Honap, and to all the volunteers who share their talents. We welcome others to join them!” notes Green.
 
For more information, visit www.westwindsorarts.org/volunteer.
 




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