From Burning Man to the Salvation Army

By catalyst

This holiday season, the bell-ringers might just spin fire.
by Amie Tullius
Beyond the glass brick wall outside Adriane Colvin’s office at the Salvation Army, you can see a line of hungry people wrapping around the block. A lovely blonde with striking green eyes, Adriane sits calmly sipping her own blend of yerba maté while a flock of intercoms and phones vibrate and chirp for her attention. Her office is painted a shade of green that might look industrial or institutional in someone else’s care, but with Adriane Colvin inhabiting it, the green seems a stylish décor choice, being almost exactly the color of her own eyes. This is a woman who slips between worlds and roles and brings style and passion to them all. Entrepreneur, choreographer, and recently a grandma, Colvin has worked in a wide range of fields throughout her career: events management, film, nutrition, childbirth, consumer advocacy and real estate. Beyond that, Adriane is well known as a leader in the Utah alternative arts community, recently as a Utah regional Burning Man contact, and currently as head of the Utah Fire Conclave: a group of elite local fire dancers who perform at the Burning Man festival each year.

She recently joined the staff of the Salvation Army as volunteer coordinator, soliciting and managing those who give thousands of hours annually and are crucial to the organization’s accomplishments. 

Your work at the Salvation Army seems quite different from your volunteer work that’s oriented around radical self-expression. Do you ever find the two at odds?

The first time I heard about altruism I was probably 13, and I remember thinking, "It would be great to live like that." But I didn’t. It took having a family, having a community that needed nurturing. I’ve worked in arts, but when you see little kids go out of here happy because they’re going to have food in their cupboards-that’s a whole different feeling. I’ve been able to take my practice further by having a job like this. .

Do you feel your work with the Burning Man community has segued into this job?

Everything I’ve done up to this point allows me to express myself without fear of judgment or that it’s going to be wrong. I trust, I trust implicitly, and I have faith that what I’m doing makes a difference. The family expression is happening here at work as well. I think it’s a calling… though I’ve never been a particularly religious person, at least from a religion that comes from any dogma.

What would you say to give people courage to take risks, to branch out beyond their known groups and organizations and explore getting involved and being of service?

The Salvation Army and the people who work here are concerned only that you have personal integrity. I have my own beliefs and principles that can fit into the Salvation Army, but what I see them doing is actually making a difference. We’re giving food to people-today-who are hungry. This morning we gave people coats.

There’s a saying here that I absolutely love: The Salvation Army is a "ministry of presence." They hold that space and that presence because they know that’s the most powerful way to help people. Not to tell people to think their way, or this is what people should do… none of that! It’s just, "this is the space that we hold. If you’re hungry, we’ll feed you; if you need assistance, we’ll help you."

There is another saying around here that I really like: "Love people until they ask you why."

Amie Tullius is becoming a regular CATALYST contributor, specializing in the arts.

How you can lend a hand this holiday season:
1. Angel tree: Come help sort toys and clothes that have been donated for families in need.
2. Bell ringing: Be one of the people who rings the bell for the red kettle program. "You can make it your own," Adriane says. She says the people who get creative with their groups tend to not only have more fun but also raise more money. "I just got a call from a guy who dresses like Star Wars characters," she says. "You can get a group of people from your church or your school, or just friends who like to wear costumes or dress up crazy. You could play saxophone, you could play the flute, you could tell jokes- it’s a good way to have fun while raising money for a great cause."
3. Make sandwiches: Get your crew together and make sandwiches for the homeless at the Salvation Army’s community dining room.
4. Volunteer at the thrift store: Sort clothes and help merchandise the store.
5. Donate! When you pass a bell-ringing Obi-Wan Kenobi or Jabba the Hut in front of Smith’s,
drop a donation in the red kettle.

Contact: Adriane Colvin, Volunteer Coordinator/Development Coordinator
(801) 746-7963

This article was originally published on December 1, 2008.