Angie Aronoff, the recipient of the 2014 Ronald and Marie Abrams Volunteer of the Year Award says she is still shaking head in disbelief about it. She doesn’t think of herself as a volunteer who does more than others around her.
The Abrams Award recognizes an individual whose life is defined by his/her volunteer activities. For Aronoff, those activities revolve around CenterStage.
Originally from Peoria, IL, Aronoff and her husband, George, moved to Louisville 27 years ago, where he took a position as chief of nephrology, teaching at the University of Louisville.
At that time, their son, Joel, was in the third grade, and their daughter, Michelle, was a senior at American University. When Michelle graduated, she joined the family in Louisville and took a job at the Jewish Community Center as assistant to the director of the cultural arts program.
In her youth, Aronoff was a dancer and had performed with a couple of community theaters in Peoria. When Michelle started working at the JCC, “that’s when I decided to get involved with the theater here,” Aronoff said. At the time she joined Genie Glazer on the company’s board, it was known at Heritage Theatre.
At that time, she remembered, “the JCC had a solid theater program, but we were not bringing in the numbers [of patrons] – only 30-40 per performance.” Since John Leffert came, the CenterStage audience has grown exponentially and the company is putting on six or seven shows each season.
Aronoff helps wherever she is needed and encourages others to follow her lead. “You can usher, hunt for props, pour refreshments, decorate a float, sew a button – if you have an inclination, we have a job for you.”
CenterStage is growing in other ways, too, she pointed out. “It used to be just at the JCC, but now it’s expanding. Acting Out brings its performances to the schools,” and provides a study guide for teachers.
“I want to see it grow and thrive,” she added, “and I hope and dream that one day CenterStage will have a permanent home.”
“We are a very, very active board,” she said. “I don’t think there’s a harder working board at the JCC.”
Aronoff has been very involved in all aspects of the theater. “I’ve been in some productions,” she said, “which I love to do, and I’ve worked with some very talented people both in front and behind stage. As board members, we solicit ads for the playbill, without which we would not be able to print for each show.
“We hold a gala each year and it takes a lot of organization and man-hours,” Aronoff said. Among other things, she and the other volunteers solicit items for the auctions, which have raised the money to enable the company to purchase lighting, sound equipment and other things they need to keep the theater growing.
Aronoff has also helped with everything from putting together costumes to serving as house manager. Being part of the board is “a job that is so multifaceted,” she said, and there is so much to do, “that you pick and choose what you like to do. It’s very easy to be involved.”
“I’m very honored to receive this award,” she said. “I was speechless when Sara [Wagner] called, and usually, I’m not at a loss for words.
“When you do something you love as much as I [love CenterStage], you do it not for any other reason than to share your love” in the hope that someone else will love it, too. “Theater opens the mind and the heart. Watching audience members faces as they leave the theater speaks volumes. Seeing how it touches them is such a gift.
“I very much appreciate the award,” she added, “but I could share it with the other 20 plus members of CenterStage because we are a hardworking, dedicated board and I don’t think anybody works harder than anyone else – except our artistic director,” John Leffert.
There is something bittersweet about this award for Aronoff, because she and her husband will soon leave Louisville for Denver to be with their family and she won’t be able to be part of the celebration of CenterStage’s 100th anniversary. She is also going to miss Louisville’s neighborhoods, her great friends and many connections. “There are not many cities that offer what Louisville offers,” she said.
Dr. George Aronoff is leaving the University of Louisville, where he has been head of the Nephrology Department for 25 years, to become the Chief Medical Officer at Renal Ventures in Denver.
Michelle and her husband, Mitch Weinraub and their two children, Miriam Ruth and Hannah Meg; Joel and his wife, Rebecca, and their two children Alexander and Mila, and Angie Aronoff’s 95-year-old mother, Ann Dhority, all live in Denver.
The move doesn’t mean she will be giving up theater. Both Miriam Ruth and Hannah Meg, ages 13 and 11, are already involved.
Prior to coming to Louisville, the Aronoffs lived in Bloomington and Indianapolis, where she volunteered with National Council of Jewish Women, helped with their Discover Israel program, taught cooking classes for children and was a stay at home mom.
She started work on her bachelor’s degree in in sociology while they were in Indianapolis and finished it later at the University of Louisville and went on to earn her master’s in health counseling. She also worked for a while for several organizations, including Planned Parenthood, where she developed their first peer education class.
Here in Louisville, she also volunteered with the Jewish Federation’s ROAR literacy program, Gilda’s Club and NCJW’s Court Watch.
Aronoff said her mother was her role model when it comes to volunteering. She was a founder of the Peoria City Ballet, “so that’s where I got my love of the arts and my sense of volunteering.”
The Aronoffs are members of Temple Shalom.
The Abrams Award will be presented at the Jewish Community of Louisville’s Annual Meeting, Sunday, June 1, at 10 a.m. at the JCC.