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Capitol Theatre: Raise the curtain and give a hand to the volunteers

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The Capitol Theatre in downtown Yakima.

When success is measured by the ability to fill a 100-year old building to the brim with as many people as possible, a pandemic can quickly throw a wrench into the works. Even without live performances, the mission of The Capitol Theatre has not changed, and the support of the community has fortunately been unwavering.

Amid a great deal of uncertainty, the one clear priority is to return to public performances as soon as possible.

In every nonprofit, the staff and board of directors work as a team to define and redefine priorities for the organization, especially when uncertainty becomes the rule and not the exception. A nonprofit board member commits time and attention to set priorities that guide an organization to fulfill its mission. The responsibility of each board member is ultimately to make prudent decisions in the best interest of the organization.

In a normal year, a board works through standard issues to achieve a defined set of short- and long-term goals that shift and change in predictable ways. When things don’t go as planned, the repercussions can be stressful and complicated. But even then the options are generally understandable and prescribed.

That was not the case in 2020, and it’s not expected to be the case for most of 2021.

People like me, who choose to make nonprofit management a career, learn early on what it takes to keep the doors open. (That phrase used to be more of a metaphor but now defines operations in a whole new way.) If it’s your career, at least you’re paid for accepting the challenge and putting in the work. Community members who volunteer to serve on nonprofit boards have had to step up in unforeseen ways. No one could have predicted the extreme decisions that every nonprofit board would have to make.

Let’s raise a hat to those serving as volunteers on nonprofit boards. It is an unprecedented time, and community volunteers are being called upon to make truly tough decisions. Stepping into survival mode means admitting harsh realities and recommending devastating measures. Ask any nonprofit across the Valley and you are likely to hear a version of the same story: austere measures to make it through an undefined span of time.

For every organization that makes it through COVID and comes out the other side with a redefined commitment to serving this community, it will be due to the partnership of its board and staff working together. Every board member deserves a standing ovation for every bit of time they offer, especially when they feel they simply can’t do enough. In addition, every board chair deserves an additional curtain call. I don’t know a single board chair who truly knew what they were getting into when they stepped up and accepted the responsibility of leading an organization as its principle community volunteer. Serving in that position during a period of upheaval is especially daunting.

In my six years at the helm of The Capitol Theatre, I have been truly blessed to work with an amazing group of women and men who have represented this community and directed our operations admirably and made it a joy to embrace Yakima as a new home. As a point of privilege, allow me to acknowledge the volunteers who have served on The Capitol Theatre board of directors since I have been here. And please join in my ovation to the chairs of our board who have been my partners over the past six years. Hats off to Mike Latimer, Karen Hyatt, Brendan Monahan, Mike Norton and JoAnne Hanses.

• Charlie Robin is CEO of The Capitol Theatre. He writes this monthly column for SCENE. For more about The Capitol Theatre, visit

Charlie Robin is CEO of the Capitol Theatre.

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