January 21, 2002
Need direction? Have a question?
by Bronwyn Wilson
Senior Staff Reporter
You've just stepped through the double doors at the west entrance of the spacious new building at Woodinville City Hall. Natural light streams through glass panels as you pass through the lobby. After a few steps further you notice someone seated at an information desk. You mention you're looking for someone in the Public Works Department.
The person at the desk smiles and gladly directs you. Soon, you're on your way. Who was that helpful person? The answer-that was City Hall's Volunteer Concierge.
"We're the friendly face that greets visitors, customers and new residents to Woodinville. Our job is to make everyone feel welcome," says Cindy Michael, one of nine citizens who donate their time each week as a Volunteer Concierge.
Michael decided to volunteer after a newspaper ad caught her attention. It had a picture of a bell, like the type a concierge at a hotel would ring, with words stating: "It has a nice ring to it. Wouldn't it be nice to be a Volunteer Concierge?" Michael had worked as a volunteer for the Eastside Convention and Visitor's Bureau and had enjoyed meeting new people. The concierge position, she determined, would give her the opportunity to meet new people again, as well as contribute to the community she lives in. Says Michael, "I thought it would be fun to get involved within my community."
Now, every Tuesday, Michael greets the people who stop at her desk. "I direct people to the correct departments and help answer general questions," she says.
People have a range of questions and concerns, from how to register a business or their pet to more specific inquiries dealing with traffic matters. She says the more common questions include, "Where's the library?" and "Where are the wineries?"
And though she's prepared to respond to a wide variety of questions, there's one common comment. "Most of the people who come in always make a comment on how beautiful the new City Hall is," she says.
According to Michael, the appearance of the building is not the only impressive aspect at City Hall. "As a citizen, I've been impressed with the employees at City Hall. They're very customer oriented."
And being a part of the city's policy of good customer service is an aspect she enjoys. She's also having a good time discovering new and interesting facts about Woodinville.
One of the most interesting things she's learned involves the city's fluctuating population in a twenty-four hour period.
"The population of Woodinville is around 9,000 plus," she says. "But it swells to 32,000 or more during the day with the addition of the traveling population coming in from other towns."
Michael adds that brochures pertaining to numerous subjects are on hand at the volunteer concierge desk.
Information is available on the wineries, recycling, Parks and Recreation events, businesses and the community and transit. There's even a Woodinville map. She points out that most of the tourist brochures are not at City Hall. "They're at the Community Center," she explains.
As concierge, learning about the city is part of the fun but helping people is the most rewarding. "Helping guide people in the right direction is very satisfying," says Michael.
Sara Lewis, a retired preschool teacher, is also a volunteer concierge for the city of Woodinville.
She comments that the program brings something extra to the city's customers. "It adds a very personal touch to City Hall."
But City Hall's customers are not the only ones who receive the personal touch.
The city affords the concierge volunteers, including Michael and Lewis, the opportunity to get to know each other at a monthly coffee klatch. While passing cookies around and sipping coffee, they discuss topics pertaining to their job like schedules or safety issues.
Sometimes they plan a luncheon, such as the one planned at their next meeting on Valentine's Day.
The members of the concierge team (currently all women) come from backgrounds of multifaceted experiences.
Many volunteer for other organizations or have part-time jobs. As an example, one volunteers for Catholic Community Services and another volunteers for Sarvay Wildlife Care Center.
There's a member of the city's Plant Squad among the group who also tutors children at Maltby Elementary. One concierge is a chaplain at Echo Glen Children's Center and another is a demonstrator for Costco.
All are united, however, in a desire to extend a welcome hand to everyone who walks through the City Hall doors. And they do.
Within the next few weeks, a computer will be added to the information desk and directional signs posted to further aid City Hall visitors in the continued effort to provide good customer service.
For those wanting to join the Volunteer Concierge team, contact John Markuson, volunteer coordinator, at (425) 489-2700, Ext. 2230.