Volunteers help create magic at Governor’s Mansion in Carson City

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Sometimes to make things happen, you must just reach out and ask for help. With so many unusual challenges and disappointments facing us this year, the thought not being able to light up our Capitol or the Governor’s Mansion for the holidays due to the pandemic was unacceptable.

We didn’t want to see our city dark and neither did the residents, the state, or Santa, especially after the many years of so much holiday light in the downtown that you could see our city from the moon.

So reach out we did to Stephen Jones, manager of district operations for Southwest Gas and graduate of the Chamber’s Leadership Institute Class of 2019 who was “right on it,” by immediately assembling a group of volunteers.

To those who were concerned that the Governor’s Mansion would not be decorated or lit for the holidays this year, rejoice for thanks to volunteers who rose early this past Saturday to help the limited state buildings and grounds staff, lights have been strung and the mansion is decorated.

Generally, the business of decorating the mansion begins right after Halloween, but this unusual year, “everything was working against us,” stated Phil Nemanic who works for the state buildings and grounds department and is in charge of the decoration of both the Capitol grounds and the mansion.

“I was out for 3.5 weeks after having tested positive three times for COVID-19, although I was and am fine.”

He couldn’t get access to the prison trustees from the minimum- security Stewart Conservation Camp for this year the entire camp was under quarantine, so no extra hands. The governor, too, tested positive and was quarantined within the mansion the week before Thanksgiving thus closing access to the mansion.

Nemanic credits Ron Bodnar and the volunteers for helping to create magic at both the mansion and the Capitol. In previous years, Ron Bodnar served as Nemanic’s assistant and was suddenly faced with the daunting decorating task of doing the decorating on his own, something he had never done.

There were thousands of lights to be strung on the Capitol grounds before Dec. 4, the night of Silver and Snowflakes Festival of Lights and the gateway to the holiday season. There was what seemed like miles of garland to be hung. The pressure was on, for the Capitol grounds had been beautifully decorated and lit since 1988 and even with the pandemic causing issues, the charge was to bring some light and joy to the city.

Jones reached out to the Southwest Gas volunteer team called Blue (building up lives everywhere) to assist. Again, due to COVID restrictions, the team was unable take this on as a project, so he did the next best thing by putting out a call to his fellow Carson City Chamber Leadership graduates and some of the families he knew that would enjoy the experience.

The volunteers were happy to assist and this past Saturday, were gratefully greeted by a relieved Bodnar and Nemanic who had finally tested negative.

“The Christmas displays around our city means a lot to all of us, especially this year,” Jones said. “When I heard the state was short-handed and the displays may be minimal, I couldn’t stand by and let that happen. Responding to a need and volunteering your time for the benefit of others is one of the most valuable ways to give back. Being able to do that with your friends and family make it even more rewarding.”

We would like to acknowledge and thank the volunteers from Southwest Gas and their families for taking most of their Saturday to lend a helping hand: Matt Helmers, Nancy Lopez and daughter Alayna, Thomas Sorensen and family and Stephen Jones. John Hoy, too, lent a hand.

Those stringing lights at the capitol included Stephen Jones, Cynthia Mirabal-Jones, Zoe Mirabal, Caleb Palmer and from the Chamber’s Leadership program, Lisa Taylor, Breana Coons, and Matt Helmers. Jones is also a Leadership graduate.

Most of all we gratefully acknowledge the main team members of the state buildings and grounds who spend countless hours annually decorating both the mansion and the capitol grounds, for even in a typical year it takes about a month to create the holiday magic we now take for granted.

Though not as showy as in past years and in spite of all the challenges, the volunteers and staff have given us the opportunity to hum the tune “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” in Carson City.


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