Granite State Ambassadors honored at AMBIEs

On June 7, more than 100 New Hampshire information specialists were recognized for their volunteer efforts at an award ceremony held at Bedford Town Hall.

Granite State Ambassadors are volunteers, industry professionals and residents of New Hampshire who have been trained and certified as “NH information specialists.” You can find them at visitor centers, special events, hotels, chambers, restaurants, real estate offices and many other locations throughout the state.

Throughout the year, GSAs, center managers, tourism officials, state officials and state travelers give kudos to GSAs with whom they’ve interacted. And at the annual AMBIE ceremony, GSAs are recognized for those kudos and hours they’ve given to the organization.

“You can think of the AMBIES as similar to the Emmy’s, but for ambassadors,” said Judi Window, GSA president, CEO and founder.

Charles Kallfez, of Milford, and his wife, Bernie, have been Granite State Ambassadors since 2001 and have volunteered more than 1,000 hours each.

“We like working in the information booth at the airport and helping people,” he said. “We especially love helping people get to know New Hampshire.”

Joe Reisert, of Amherst, commented on what he likes most about being a GSA.

“I like the comaraderie, and particularly I like to help people to understand and enjoy more of New Hampshire,” Reisert said.

Mary Ann Rupert, of Wilton, received recognition for five years of volunteering and reaching more than 250 hours.

“I love having the chance to meet a lot of very nice people,” she said.

The Granite State Ambassadors is an award-winning organization with such recognition as the 2012 White Mountain National Forest Appreciation Award, nomination for the 2010 Business of the Decade, 2007 Governor’s Commendation and 2003’s Most Valuable Volunteers, to name a few.

“It’s been another whirlwind year,” Window said. “The staff and I have had a lot of fun with many speaking engagements and presentations and new training programs. One of our presentations was at the New England Visitor Center Association’s annual meeting. Everyone is amazed about our organization, and they always ask us about the who, what, why and how.”

She said the “who” are the volunteers. The “what” is the GSA focus – being the New Hampshire information specialists. The “why” is that with leaner staffs, organizations demand well-rounded employees and volunteers, and the association appreciates the efforts of volunteers in their work environment.

“We train 60 percent volunteers and 40 percent employees in the GSA program,” Window said. “Working together at visitor centers and special events and engaging one another at training, roundtables and social gatherings develops a feeling of camaraderie that spreads to the people we serve.”

Window said the four pillars of how the GSA organization adds value.

“First, we build a strong foundation with GSA certification,” she said. “Our customer service and specialized training, along with monthly educational courses, orientations and debriefings after each special event and at end of each tourism season solidifies the foundation. Second, everything we do is infused with massive value. Third, we magnify that value.

“Our value doesn’t stop at the service we provide; it expands through social media engagement, ongoing recommendations, and internal and external communications. And fourth, we have the magic combination of training, working together, cross-promoting, spreading the word and delivering excellence in everything we do.”

Awards given at this year’s ceremony include Top Hours for the year, the Sunshine Award for being an exemplary role model for the core GSA goals, Future Leaders of N.H. award to young volunteers (and their parents), Service Award for volunteering with enthusiasm and constantly learning about the state, Hospitality from the Heart, and GSA of the Year.

Sue Geyer, of Merrimack, won this year’s Hospitality from the Heart award.

“The award is given to the GSA who spends endless hours trying to go unnoticed and gives generous contributions to other GSAs from their warm heart,” Window said. “Sue Geyer is just that person.”

Geyer has more than 400 hours in two years as a GSA volunteer.

“I was shocked, really surprised, and very honored,” Geyer said. When asked what she likes most about the GSAs, she said, “I love the people. It’s a fabulous organization, and it’s just fun.”

Geyer spends a lot of time volunteering at the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport.

“When I go to the airport and there’s someone lost or having issues, we do our best to help them work through the problems. We don’t have all the answers all the time, but it helps a lot sometimes to just brainstorm with the person, especially if they are alone, to try to resolve their problem. And it’s always satisfying when someone walks away with a smile.”

Windows congratulated the GSA volunteers and their contributions to the service.

“Two hundred fifty-four volunteers served 16,596 hours and assisted 97,154 guests, excluding events, at 32 visitor centers and events in 2011. And we trained a total of 98 new volunteers and industry personnel,” Window said.

GSAs are easy to spot in their dark green shirts and khaki pants (after Lake Winnipesaukee’s “ice out” in the spring) or dark blue slacks (after “ice in” in the winter.) GSAs love meeting people, whether they are fellow New Hampshire residents looking for someplace new to visit or visitors to the state.

The NHGSA partners include Manchester-Boston Regional Airport, the New Hampshire Division of Travel and Tourism Development, and Public Service of New Hampshire.

You’ll find about 100 GSAs at this weekend’s Rock’n Ribfest in Merrimack. Feel free to say hello and ask about the organization.

For more information, visit nhgsa.org.