Originally created 04/15/04

G-8 Summit volunteers to help tend to diplomats



SAVANNAH, Ga. - Ask Karen Cassard about the bandits.

In 1994, when she was the United Nations' chief procurement officer in Mogadishu, Somalia, she and her bodyguards came under attack.

Bandits shot at them. Her bodyguards fired back.

And, wearing two flak jackets and a helmet, Ms. Cassard ducked and ran for safety.

Years later, she relishes the memory.

"It was terribly exhilarating, all these guys shooting at us from both sides of the road," she said.

By contrast, her life is quiet now. At 75, she's retired, living near Savannah and doing volunteer work.

But when she learned that an international conference called the G-8 Summit would come to Sea Island in June, Ms. Cassard signed up.

She wanted to give her fluent French a workout. And, Ms. Cassard said, "It's fun to have a taste of the international world that I was involved in."

Though she's not expecting any bandits, "I want to be in the middle of something exciting."

Commercial real estate salesman Clay Hostetter caught the G-8 fever, too.

After all, the 36-year-old Savannah native said, being a G-8 volunteer is "a once-in-a-lifetime experience."

Because he knows old Savannah and new development, Mr. Hostetter believes he'll put "a good but truthful spin" on the city.

Though he knows only English, Mr. Hostetter thinks he'll communicate just fine.

"I speak Southern," he said proudly.

Mr. Hostetter and Ms. Cassard are among more than 350 people who applied to act as volunteers for the economic summit June 8-10. No more are being sought at this time.

About 1,200 diplomats from the United Kingdom, France and six other nations will meet at Sea Island for private talks. They and 3,500 foreign reporters, broadcasters and editors are expected to stay in Savannah.

Tending them will be hotel staffers, security details and the volunteers.

Exactly what volunteers will do is still under review, said Heather Safrit, a former Savannah resident who serves as volunteer coordinator for the G-8 Summit Planning Organization.

After they pass a Secret Service background check, volunteers will greet diplomats and media, assist with credentials and the communications center and staff hotel "help desks." Though they'll work three eight-hour shifts, their compensation is meager: a couple of meal tickets and two G-8 polo shirts.