Drinking While Volunteering at Youth Function??

Updated on March 12, 2019
J.H. asks from Saint Louis, MO
15 answers

So my husband is doing the required concession stand duty while our child is in a community youth Theatre production. His co-volunteer is drinking wine. Right before intermission she pulled the bottle of wine out her purse and refilled her cup. What does one do when faced with this? They mainly sell concessions to the kids in the production (ages 6-15y/o) but also to the people who have paid to see this the show. Do you let it go, mention something to the program director? He says you can smell the wine. This just 2-2.5hrs of volunteer time tops.

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So What Happened?

Thanks everyone for your responses. To clarify this was held at small municipality’s hall and organized by their Park and Rec department. The municipality is part of a larger metro area. Concessions does not sell any alcohol whatsoever, mainly candy, soft pretzels and soda.

Funny thing is at the matinee performance on Sunday I worked concessions with the woman’s husband. Husband seemed very nice. Apparently, their 2 kids have been in a lot of productions over past few years. We only have one kid interested in theater and this was only her 2nd production.

Now that the show is over my husband placed a call to Parks & Rec person asking if drinking was allowed during volunteering. She said no. He without stating what exactly happened stated that perhaps she should make it clear to all parents the expectations when completing the required volunteering because he saw a volunteer clearly drinking in clear violation of their policy. She thanked him. He felt awkward naming her since her kids have been in productions quite frequently.

All families are required to volunteer for 2-3 jobs either during rehearsals or the actual production. We both see it as a blessing she didn’t choose to supervise the kids backstage. So there was one positive.

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answers from Minneapolis on

Yes, he should tell the program director and simply state that the situation made him uncomfortable. It is the directors job to deal with it so give him/her a chance to address the issue.

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answers from Washington DC on

I'm the volunteer who coordinates the concession stand and volunteers for our performing group; we sell concessions at intermissions and before and after the shows. So I really can picture what you're describing in terms of the setting. But I can't even begin to picture any of our parent volunteers doing what this parent did. I would want to know, as the person responsible for the concessions sales, and I would let our overall volunteer coordinator know as well. In your case, it sounds to me like the program director definitely should know as well as whoever coordinates/signs up volunteers.

Your husband, not you, should be the one to contact them, and he should do it face to face -- I would not want to put this into an e-mail or (heaven forbid) a brief text.

I'm assuming here that you are not selling any alcohol to adults as concessions....

I'd be very concerned about all of the following:

--Kids and adults smelling alcohol on this parent. Totally the wrong place and time. Parents and guests (I bet grandparents, friends etc. come to your shows, right?) will get a very bad impression if they smell alcohol on a volunteer at a youth event. And if she is selling concessions she is directly facing people and handing them food and taking their money. Yes, they will smell it.

--Getting busted by whoever runs/owns the theater you're using. Our shows are mostly in school auditoriums; if an adult were known by the school to be drinking on the property we would possibly be told we could not rent school space there again. I would almost bet that any contract your theater group has with the theater management probably stipulates no alcohol on the premises. She's possibly putting the studio's contract in jeopardy.

--This parent driving her own kids! She may not appear drunk but your husband has NO idea how much wine she'd already had before he saw her "top up" her special cup. She may be driving away from this show buzzed if not actually drunk. I wouldn't want to be driving near her. I wouldn't want to think of her driving her own children home from the show.

--This parent possibly having an alcohol problem. She's not a personal friend, I take it, but still -- if she cannot get through an event without needing an entire BOTTLE in her bag, she has some issues even if she's not an outright alcoholic.

Oh, and if she drives home with that bottle still in her bag -- if she gets stopped, even if she's not over the limit on drinking, she can be prosecuted for having an open bottle in her car, at least where I live.

I disagree with the post saying to let it go unless someone is "very drunk" and questioning whether your husband "knows for a fact" if others might have had wine at some point. He only knows what he himself saw at that moment, and that is enough for him to tell the director and volunteer coordinator. It's THEIR call, not his call, whether this is a problem for your particular youth organization or not, but unless he tells them, they won't be able to make an informed call at all. I know that I would want to be told so I could confer with our other volunteer leaders and decide whether and how to proceed. Our reputation as an organization that's focused on kids could be affected.

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answers from Houston on

Yes, your husband should say something to the director but not you. He was there and he was the witness.

Who the heck travels with a bottle of wine in their purse???? Sounds like she could have a drinking problem.

Regardless, this should be brought to the directors attention.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

It sounds like you are sort of trying to ask two questions here: general opinion about whether this woman did something wrong, and, should it be mentioned to the program director.

I think it's fine to mention *anything* to the program director. Especially in a community volunteer type situation, the director probably relies on that type of feedback to keep things running smoothly - that theater does not sound like a situation with lots of "employees" whose livelihoods depend on making sure everything is perfect there. Contstantly messy theater bathrooms? Mention it to the director. Some theater volunteers are tipsy? Mention it to the director.

BUT - if having a discussion about the actions of this woman, I think it might be best to start by approaching it from the *general* feedback of "should we as a volunteer group regulate the consumption of alcohol at the theater" or "how should we as a volunteer group regulate volunteers consuming alcohol". If there is no rule in place yet. Rather than making the conversation all about that one woman - because hey, she might not be the first or the last volunteer to do that!

As for my opinion about what the woman did - and, my opinion about how a volunteer theater group should regulate the consumption of alcohol - I think that anyone there to "perform a duty" should not be "drinking on the [volunteer] job". It sounds like this woman was handling money, so she should certainly be focused on the task at hand.

Most of all, I think anyone who could be considered to be "chaperoning" or "overseeing" the children should not be drinking while actively involved in the children's oversight and care. You mentioned that the concessions are mainly sold to children in the production, so it sounds like the concession sellers are sort of "backstage troop leaders" for the child performers...not a role that should be done while drinking.

As some posters also mention below - I am not a tee-totaler, I am accustomed to wine, there are many things I could do well while drinking wine, and I'm sure that is true of many adults. But regardless of alcohol tolerance, the consumption of alcohol in situations like what you describe can be a liability issue and often really a matter of "better safe than sorry".

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answers from Louisville on

If this woman can’t go two hours with out a drink it definitely needs to be brought to someone’s attention.

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answers from Portland on

Definitely tell the program director. I suggest that it's not safe to have an inebriated volunteer. The company could be held liable if something untoward happened while she was a volunteer. There could also be bad press. The director should not allow her to be drinking "on duty."

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answers from Boston on

1) Notify the program director that it happened, that she made no effort to hide it (expecting your husband to be okay with it), and that the smell of wine was obvious. The director should establish (or publicize the existing policy) about smoking, all tobacco products, alcohol, pot and so on.
2) Understand it's a PR issue and a liability issue (if she makes a poor decision, falls down the theater steps, or gets in her car to drive home and gets hurt or hits somebody, to name a few).
3) Refuse to work a shift with her again if the director doesn't ban her. And be wary of any other volunteer programs for other organizations.
4) Find out if there's an alcohol policy for this theater. I'm not clear if it's private property or town-owned, or what the insurance coverage is like.

I understand wanting to have a drink to pass the time, and I'm no tee-totaler, but this is ridiculous in front of all those kids.

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answers from Portland on

I tend to trust my gut on these things.

If everyone else was drinking at intermission, and the volunteer had a glass and wasn't tipsy, and the vibe was that everyone would be ok with that, then I wouldn't.

If it wasn't like that, and it was just weird - then I might say something.

If she had a drinking problem and I didn't want to get all involved in that, I don't know if I would.

If she'd made errors in her calculations, or the kids had noticed, and she was sloppy etc. For sure I would mention it.

I just trust my judgment on that kind of thing. If it was 'inappropriate' then yes. If others would not be bothered by her having a glass (discretely) and the kiddos didn't know - and it was seen as a reward for volunteering - and no one else was bothered - I doubt I would.

It should probably be in the rules for volunteering. If it's not, and I was uncomfortable, that might be a way to approach it.

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answers from Dallas on

Was your husband the only one that noticed it? mentioned it?
Were other people having alcohol at the event?

Why is it your business to report what your husband told you? That’s hearsay.

She was volunteering her time for less than 3 hours and obviously didn’t do anything wrong except in your mind have wine, discreetly.

Was she the only person having wine? How do you know that for a fact if you answer yes?

If this was a blatant disrespect of the volunteer rules, that’s one thing. If it was done discreetly and you just have a personal issue with it. That’s another thing,

It’s your choice to report it. Personally, I’d mind my own business unless someone was very drunk, not fulfilling the duties correctly and his/her behavior out of sorts.

Unless other people noticed and reported, it’s simply hearsay and you are the tattletale.

Maybe the volunteer group needs some rules and guidelines to follow. I see nothing wrong with someone enjoying a glass or 2 of wine as long as they are fulfilling their VOLUNTEER duties.

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answers from Dallas on

I have managed concession for football games and gymnastics meets (no alcohol sold) I would have a major probably with someone drinking while doing concessions. I have also worked concessions at minor league baseball games that sell alcohol and we are told specifically we are NOT to consume any alcohol. So I would definitely tell someone in charge. If they can't cope for a few hours without it they have no business working it.
Add: I am glad he contacted them!! They need to know what is going on. It's not just what some would consider a moral issue it to me is more of a safety issue. There are usually things that are hot that you have to be around and with the ones I have worked there are tripping hazards even if you are sober.

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answers from Denver on

I saw a couple of parents drinking wine coolers at a gymnastics high school meet. The cans looked like soda, but they were wine. I kept my mouth shut, but I'm sure it was totally against the rules in a school. I actually stay away from them now.

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answers from Norfolk on

He should absolutely talk to his program director about it.
Her drinking wine during a function reflects directly on the program - it's not an image they should be wanting to project to the community.
I don't know if she just has bad judgement or is an alcoholic but she can't be handling booze and maybe being drunk at any function.
What happens if she gets confused enough to hand any of her wine off to any of the teens/kids?
Can you just picture the bad publicity for the group if this manages to become a news item?
The director should handle it.

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answers from Miami on

Does the concession sell wine? The theater concessions here sell beer and wine, for example, and if someone buys a beer and puts it in their purse, they are free to drink it as they please. Maybe your husband needs to speak to the concession company to tell them he has a problem with them selling booze and patrons overstepping their boundaries in drinking. I have never seen anyone drunk at an opera or theater function where they sold wine or beer, for example. I guess I would mind my own business unless someone is being obnoxious or looks like they may be unable to drive and pose a hazard on the road. I don't see how a cup or two of wine, drunken slowly over 2.5 hours, would be enough to cause that, honestly. Besides, can you positively be sure she was drinking alcoholic wine? I have Mormon friends who serve beer and wine at their home, but they are NON-alcoholic beer and wine, and look the same as an alcoholic beer or wine (wine bottle or beer can).

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answers from San Diego on

Are you the wine police? Half the parents are high on over the counter medication and then drug their children. The hypocrisy.

It’s volunteer work, not a full time job. She must have to drink just to deal. Leave the poor women alone. She could drink before volunteering if that’s an issue.

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answers from Miami on

If it really bothers you, quietly inquire about the actual rules with the program director. You can tell her why, but you need to absolutely understand that when it comes to volunteerism, sometimes beggars can’t be choosers, and the director has to balance the need for having volunteers with being a hardnose for the rules. It could be that she can quietly find other volunteers that will be at the ready for the job so that this lady with the wine won’t be doing this again. No one has to talk about it, and nobody gets the idea that volunteers aren’t appreciated.

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