O’Hare Volunteers Strive to Make Positive First Impression

More than 350 volunteers are stationed at O'Hare to greet travelers, answer questions

As NATO delegates and protesters descend upon Chicago, a group of volunteers is trying their best to make the images of the city as memorable and appealing as possible.

"First impressions are made once and this is our first opportunity to make an impression, a very positive one, on the people that are coming here," said volunteer Lori Igelski.

Igelski is one of about 350 people who've signed up with the NATO Host Committee to greet and help anyone who passes through the terminals at O'Hare International Airport. 

The several thousand delegates who will be visiting Chicago this weekend will all be arriving by Saturday for the upcoming NATO Summit, and will be greeted by the welcoming committee. The committee will also be greeting and answering questions for anyone else flying through O'Hare, even if they simply want to know what NATO is.

"You might be returning from a trip and you live here and you might have a question, you've heard about what's going on and you want to learn a little more. Or you're passing through Chicago and you might be unaware of what all is happening," explained Igelski.

One delegate with the Defense Ministry from the Albanian Embassy, Haxhi Everest, flew in Thursday morning and is eager for a productive weekend.

"It is time that we work together to build a stronger partnership and alliance," he said, adding his impressions of the city: "Chicago is a wonderful city, It has a wonderful history."

For some of the volunteers, being a part of the NATO Host Committee will be an incredible learning experience.

"You get to learn about other cultures, most definitely, just coming into contact with people of other countries," said DePaul University student Alyssa Rovansik, one of about 200 students who volunteered.

For all of the volunteers it is important to show the NATO arrivals that Chicago is more than the chaotic protests they may see.

"There will be protesters here causing disruptions, and I don't want our visitors to think negatively about one of the most beautiful cities in the world," said Reed Schmaedeke.

The Host Committee volunteers will be stationed at O'Hare through Tuesday, when many of the visitors are scheduled to leave.

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