Even early on in her life, volunteering in Crystal Lorette’s family was so normalized that she didn’t realize not everyone spent hours upon hours helping causes larger than themselves.
Learning from her parents, who enveloped themselves in everything their kids did, Crystal has taken that same approach to her own lifestyle in Prince Rupert and it’s resulted in a stronger and more vibrant community.
“[Getting involved] comes naturally to me because my parents, growing up, were always involved in whatever my brother and sister and I were involved in. So yeah, I just thought that’s what everyone did. I didn’t even know there was just a handful of us sometimes!” Crystal laughed.
If you listed the number of boards and organizations that Crystal is involved with or has been involved with in the past, you’d run out of breath before getting halfway down the list.
The born-and-raised Rupertite is currently past-president with the Prince Rupert Rotary Club and has been on the board of directors for Jazz Production Associations, Prince Rupert Minor Hockey — where she was a director, a referee coordinator and canteen coordinator — treasurer on the parent committee at Seal Cove Elementary School where she was instrumental in starting a Read With Me program to get kids and parents to read at home, chair of the Snowbirds committee — getting the pilots to come and perform in Prince Rupert — a committee member for the city’s centennial birthday in 2010 where she coordinated the gumboot project, quilt project and put on the play, “The Dream Lives On”, written locally and produced by Crystal, a committee member for the RCMP Musical Ride, a board member for the Harbour Theatre Society, Arts Advocacy of B.C. and the Made in B.C. Dance on Tour.
“I think it’s my nature to do service above self and that’s kind of what led me to Rotary,” said Crystal.
“I’ve been involved with Rotary for eight years and I went to an early morning breakfast meeting. Sometimes I don’t do early mornings well and I guess I happened to be at the meeting and I was on the executive before I knew it! So no more early meetings for me.”
Outside of her extra-curricular work as a volunteer, Crystal also took a position on the Northern Savings Credit Union board of directors for three years after being recruited by the organization.
“It was a great experience. We’ve been members for 30 years, [my husband] Dan and I, and so when I was approached to put my name forward, I thought of the concept behind the co-operative and of course we definitely believe in that, but they are such a community oriented institution,” she said.
“It’s great. It’s kind of nice to have the head office of your financial institution in your home town.”
Putting the community first is a big part of what drives Crystal in her volunteer work, but also as general manager of the Lester Centre of the Arts – one of northern B.C.’s most prestigious performing arts centres and a building that definitely punches above its weight with the quality of performances in this rural area.
Originally being hired on part-time as an office assistant in 2001 and later transitioning to front of house manager, Crystal took the general manager position with the centre in 2006.
“I was offered the position, so I thought about it for awhile and I enjoyed what I was doing. It’s such a different ball game every time you come to work. Every event is different,” said Crystal.
“You’re not a Monday to Friday 9-5 [job], you’re an on-demand facility and I’m really the first homegrown general manager that the building had ever had at the time [of my hiring].”
Crystal is especially proud of that fact. Having seen some of the struggles that the city’s residents deal with, she knows Prince Rupert isn’t the wealthiest of cities, but she will do and be anything she can to help grow the town and make it a thriving place to live.
“Sometimes managers say ‘it’s my building’ or ‘my ship’, or whatever, but I don’t. I try to bring the community into it. When we do the ‘Completely Plugged’ [concert] events, that’s all just me organizing and [the acts] are amazing because for a community our size, we have a really high calibre of musicians that live here. And most of them you that you ask, ‘Hey can you give me a hand’? Done – they don’t ask any questions and that proves to me that they also feel the same way about this building,” said Crystal.
“And that goes with everything that I do. Whenever we do an event and I say ‘I’ll need a container to store things in, I’ll call up Broadwater [Industries] or I’ll call up Wainwright Marine and there we go. The container is there and they donate their crane services. I’m pretty lucky. Obviously the arts is the first thing that gets slashed in a budget, provincially and federally, so we try our best to keep things going, but this community supports each other and supports community events.”
For Homecoming 2015 and with the help of choir and band conductor Peter Witherly, Crystal was able to put on “Broadway Through the Decades” – a compilation show of highlights from past musical performances that had played at the Lester Centre.
And next year, the manager is looking forward to presenting “Rock of Ages”, having recently acquired the rights shortly after they became available.
“Because musicals are such a big undertaking, you need a year off [between them]. So, we’ve done some pretty serious and darker musicals, but they still have lots of components for lots of things. [Rock of Ages] is sweet ‘80s music and then a little bit of a storyline, but we just finished auditions. This one’s a little bit smaller, about a cast of 30 … Not that I don’t appreciate working with 56 cast members, plus orchestra, plus, plus, plus – so that’s about 100 people. It’s just going to be a nice breather, I’m looking forward to that,” she said.
“I thoroughly enjoy the challenges and rewards of presenting and producing performing arts for a community with vision, imagination and pride … The trust that I have in the people who I work with is why I can do these things.”