Nicodemus brings a welcoming smile to the Mishler crowd | News, Sports, Jobs

01/24/22 Mirror Photo of Patrick Waksmunski/Jill Nicodemus, longtime volunteer usher at the Mishler Theater known for her welcoming smile and variety of festive coats, is approaching her 20th year of service with the Blair County Arts Foundation.

With a smile and a warm welcome, Jill Nicodemus holds the door and welcomes attendees to the shows at the Mishler Theater. As a volunteer for the Blair County Arts Foundation, it’s a task she’s done hundreds of times since 2003.

“It’s a pleasure to inaugurate Jill,” said Carol Tally of Altoona. “She is so conscientious and willing to help, whether it’s school outings during the day or performances (Altoona Community Theater) in the evenings.”

Tally also volunteers with BCAF and holds the door nearby.

It’s a responsibility both women take seriously because they represent the arts foundation and organizations that perform at the historic site.

“We greet people with a smile and a ‘Can I help you'” Tally explained. “You have to be pleasant and sociable and respectful of everyone. Jill’s personality is like that anyway. She doesn’t have to be an actress at the gate.

Nicodemus moved to Altoona in 1974 from Leonia, NJ, raised two sons and spent 11 years helping residents earn a GED. She retired from the Altoona Area School District at its Community Education Center in 1998. She then worked for Avon Inc. Corporate Headquarters as the District Representative for that area between 2005 and 2011 .

She also volunteers at the Altoona Area Public Library several days a week.

“Jill has been a loyal volunteer at the Altoona Area Public Library for many years,” said executive director Jennifer Knisely. “She is always ready to help and has constantly updated our birth database to help genealogical researchers. Most recently, Jill provided much needed support to get the books from the Youth Hall back on the shelves after the devastating flood in December 2020. The library and the community are so lucky to be able to benefit from Jill’s commitment to service public and volunteering.

As a Rotary member, Nicodemus heard about the Blair County Arts Foundation’s need for volunteers through fellow Rotarian Kate Shaffer, who serves as the arts organization’s executive director.

Shaffer said Nicodemus “is enthusiastic and positive. She is always so friendly and welcoming to everyone who walks through the door.”

Ushers are told they are needed for events via email and choose events that work with their schedules, Shaffer said. The arts foundation has a pool of approximately 80 volunteer ushers and can always use more as some volunteers take vacations during the winter months.

About 10 ushers are needed to help patrons at each performance, Shaffer said, as they greet attendees and help them find their seats.

“It’s not a high-pressure job” Tally said, but comes with the satisfaction of helping others in the community have a positive experience at Mishler. “It was a really pleasant experience for me, and Jill helped create that pleasant atmosphere.”

Nicodemus’ usual post is at the left door inside the vestibule – a cold post during the winter months. She has earned a reputation for her colorful and unique assortment of coats that are the envy of other ushers.

Shaffer said his favorite coat that Nicodemus wears “Reminds me of the concierge at the Plaza Hotel (New York). It’s red and she wears it with white gloves and it’s just awesome.

Nicodemus refers to the all-red mantle as his “holiday coat” because it is lined with black velvet. She usually chooses this coat for December performances to add a festive splash of red. The coat is from Harvey Bernard and she bought it at Value City years ago.

“It was such a great find, and it held up,” she says.

Another winter coat is white in color and cut in the formal style of a men’s tuxedo. Her winter coats and the blazers she wears in the warmer months are selected, she said, “to add to the magnificence of the Mishler.” It’s a world-class venue, and I want to give it the honor it deserves.

Under her coats, she and the other ushers wear black pants with a white shirt. White helps spectators find ushers if they need help.

Nicodemus said she really enjoys introducing the Mishler to residents — especially first-time visitors, who have increased in recent years as BCAF has diversified the entertainment offered at the site.

“My favorite part of the job is when I find out someone has never been to the Mishler before. I try to give them a quick introduction to the beauty of the building. the whole theatre. The balcony is the best place to see the amazing artwork on the ceiling.

The arts foundation’s efforts to modernize the historic theater have also been well received by patrons and ushers.

“We were very, very fortunate to add air conditioning several years ago without sacrificing the historic aesthetic of the building. Summers without air conditioning were stifling,” said Nicodemus. The Mishler has been on the National Register of Historic Places since May 1973.

“Our bailiffs do this out of love. They are selfless and always available if we need them,” Shaffer said.

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