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  • Carolyn Gauthier

Volunteer Sally Peter Leads the Way By Hosting the Most Institutional Shows

Volunteers are the mainstay of our annual program. We are fortunate to have the incredible dedication of over 350 individual performers and groups, as well as over forty active volunteer hosts who now facilitate over two-thirds of our yearly shows.

Bread & Roses Presents brings the joy and healing power of music and other live art to those in society who would not otherwise have access to it. Serving over 125 facilities in the Bay Area, the organization puts on over 600 shows each year. Sally Peter’s job as a host makes this possible. All performers and hosts are volunteers, and they create a professional atmosphere to enrich the lives of the under-served communities that are isolated in institutional settings and often hidden from view.

Sally Peter has been a dedicated volunteer host since 1996. She has shown over and over how committed she is to Bread & Roses mission to “uplift the human spirit by providing free, live, quality entertainment to people who live in institutions or are otherwise isolated from society.” On October 25, 2019 Sally hosted her 600th show, the most that any volunteer has done since the organization started in 1974.

A retired schoolteacher, she liked the idea of being able to help others in a new way. She said, “I love the performing arts and here was a chance to be part of a show without being a performer. I am more of a behind-the-scenes person. I could help with the shows as needed, check on the arrangements, and introduce the performers. I could travel to facilities all over the Bay Area to emcee different types of shows. This was very appealing. “

Over the last year, Sally has hosted 25 unique performances where her duties include coming to the office to pick up a PA system, driving to facilities all over the Bay Area, setting up the sound system and staging area, greeting the performers when they arrive and making sure all their needs are taken care of. She works with the facility directors to ensure the clients are assembled, introduces each act and gives background about the work and history of Bread & Roses. She observes the audience and takes notes, counts the number of people who enjoy the show and gathers statistical information. She encourages participants’ involvement and appreciation, takes care of problems that may arise, wraps up the show with a special greeting from Bread & Roses and a last big thank you to the performer. After each show she sends in her required report in a prompt and professional way.

Her contribution to the organization is exemplary. The staff and all of the clients she comes in contact with have a high regard for her and often express how touched they are by her presence. “Sally is always there with a smile and a helpful hand,” reported one of the facility directors. “She goes around and speaks to the audience members, asking them if they enjoyed the show. She is a role model for the kind of personal touch that Bread & Roses is known for.”

Sally shared some examples of experiences she has had this past year. “The performers at these shows often tell me that they get as much from doing the shows as the audience gets from the shows,” says Sally. “I couldn’t agree more. Plus, this volunteer job is always interesting. The variety of artists I get to enjoy range from singers to puppeteers to bubble artists to bands. These are first-rate performers. When I see the joy on the faces of the audience members, I know Bread and Roses is fulfilling its mission to uplift spirits – not only for the audience members but mine as well.”

At a recent puppet show in the Canal area of San Rafael for Hispanic children and their parents, Sally shared, “I watched a little boy get closer and closer to the puppets with a look of wonder on his face. Even though he couldn’t understand all the English words he could understand the magic of the puppet show. He was in another world.”

Sally relayed that she always finds it a joy to host shows at the Cedars, a facility for developmentally disadvantaged adults. “‘The residents are usually so happy. They love to get up and dance to the music. They often want to tell you about themselves. I think my first show was at the Cedars where I have hosted many programs throughout the years. Some of the same people are still there many years later. They are like old friends by now. My favorite story is about the lady, who when she saw me, always used to say, ‘You’re here!’ (Who else says that when you enter a room?) We would always dance together when the music started. We both looked forward to that. That lady is still there, but she no longer recognizes me, and she can no longer dance.“

"At care centers, where many of the people are in wheelchairs, the entertainment provided by Bread & Roses provides a respite from their daily lives," Sally shares. "When the music starts you can see toes tapping and heads nodding in time with the music. When the audience recognizes songs, they sing along. Even when you think some residents are not paying attention, they perk up when certain songs are played. After the show they tell you how much they enjoyed the music. Some of residents have been there for years. You get to know some of their names if you come back often enough.”

Sally Peter has shown what a dedicated and valuable volunteer she is by giving her time and unique talent to Bread & Roses Presents. The organization simply would not exist without people like Sally, who are the backbone of the organization and now host over 65 percent of the shows. With the help of volunteers like Sally Peter, Bread & Roses can continue to produce over 600 shows a year throughout the Bay Area.

To apply online to be a volunteer host, fill out our online application.

Photo Captions:

1) Sally Peter (l) with a surprise bouquet of balloons at her 600th show at Aprendiendo Juntos/ Parent Services Project, with ED Dave Perron (center) and performer Joe Leon (r). Photo by Marian Hubler.

2) 2019 Bread & Roses JAM award presented to Sally Peter by Marian Hubler for Most Active Volunteer. Photo by Peter Merts.

3) Sally Peter introduces Caterpillar Puppets (Joe Leon) before the Bread & Roses show for the families at Aprendiendo Juntos/ Parent Services Project. Photo by Marian Hubler.

4) A little boy inches closer to the puppets at a Bread & Roses show. Photo by Marian Hubler.

5) Sally Peter's celebration cake at the Bread & Roses office. Photo by Carolyn Gauthier.

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