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Monday, January 28, 2013

Volunteer spotlight: Aaron Plantenberg, Penya Barcelonista

Aaron Plantenberg, right, VP of Penya Barcelonista.
Each month, DC SCORES highlights a volunteer that has made a significant impact on the program. It would be impossible to give over 1,450 students throughout the District the quality programming they receive without the help of our volunteers. To learn about volunteer opportunities, visit www.DCSCORES.org.


Name: Aaron Plantenberg, VP of Penya Barcelonista

DCS: Hey Aaron, so what is exactly is Penya?

AP: The Penya is the word (in Catalan) for the various supporter clubs of FC Barcelona. We are the official supporters club in Washington, DC. We are one of six in the United States.

DCS: Can you explain your role within The Penya?

AP: I am one of the founders; we were just a small group of fans watching games in the fall of 2009. We were meeting and watching matches at Lucky Bar. I am the VP right now and the President, Raimon Puigjaner — he was the one who began talking to people and assembling this group with the idea of forming a Penya.

You have to do various things to get approved. … We formed a board, wrote a constitution. … We were finally approved by the club in January 2011. This means you can use the name Penya and some other privileges.

DCS: What motivated this Penya to become involved with DC SCORES?

AP: Aside from just being a club to drink beer or watch matches, in the Penya system you are supposed to promote the club throughout the world; promote FC Barcelona, but also promote the values of that club, so we took it a step further to promote soccer within the community.

I am close friends with (DC SCORES Executive Director) Amy Nakamoto, and I felt that DC SCORES was an organization that we could start to funnel our energy into and funds, when we can. It just makes sense as the primary soccer organization in the area. It’s for kids and primarily for underserved youth — it made a lot of sense. Kids from a lot of cities — especially when you start coming into contact with Latino families — are already FC Barça fans. We have a lot of members, many of which are Latino; this was a way to bridge that gap as well. Doing something here within the District was important.

DCS: How long have you been an FC Barça fan?

AP: I didn’t even play soccer growing up —  it’s something I’ve come into later in my life. I wish I had the opportunity the kids have today.

DCS: How did you get involved with DC SCORES?

AP: Before I started working with Penya, I did some little volunteer stuff around some main events, like Jamboree! and Fall Frenzy. I attended a few fundraisers, (and) the Poetry Slam!. Then when I became affiliated with the Penya, I tried to funnel our members to come out for those big events. We have also done some fundraisers.

The Penya charges membership dues and we’ll take a segment of those funds and buy some goals — this year we bought some scrimmage vests. Occasionally, we’ll do some targeted fundraisers. We’ll do a raffle with funds going toward to DC SCORES

DCS: How long have you been volunteering with DC SCORES?

AP: Geez, maybe around four years or so — two years on my own and two years sending the Penya people down to do a booth at the Jamboree! and Fall Frenzy.  

DCS: What made you come back this year?

AP: I think it’s a lot of fun just to see that many kids out having fun related to soccer. It’s just a great energy, families get into the fun and you can tell they appreciate it. There are so many volunteers, and I see people I know from my soccer league. It’s just kind of cool to see adults and kids all really into soccer — a sport I enjoy and I like seeing it promoted in the city, seeing more kids involved, more fields, more teams.

DCS: Describe your most enjoyable experience volunteering for DC SCORES.

AP: Probably one of the times we ran a penalty kick target game at a DC SCORES event; that’s the most fun. I volunteer refereed one time, but I felt a little beyond my depth. So just working the booth is my favorite.

DCS: How do you decide what to donate?

AP: We consult with (Associate Program Director for Quality) Sean Hinkle. We like the alternative of sending over a physical thing rather than a check. We look to identify the need. We are happy to be able to donate things that are needed, like nets and scrimmage vests. To go and have a fundraiser and be able to say we are trying to raise money to buy blank, that costs blank amount, it’s a good reference point for how much to sell raffle tickets for. Having a concrete tangible thing, I think it makes it easier to tell people why we are raising money. I just prefer to do it that way when possible.

DCS: What motivates you to want to volunteer?

AP: I think DC SCORES is a great organization. We just really want to continue building connections between the Penya and DC SCORES. You guys can help us fulfill our mission and we can help you fulfill ours.

DCS: What is a typical FC Barça game day like?

AP: We gather and watch all the games at the Elephant & Castle on 19th and I (NW) downtown. We end up having some maybe 60 to 200 people down there for any given match, depending on how big the game is. We set up other social events for people to get together, meet each other, play soccer and talk soccer. In some cases it might be related to soccer or it might be related to Barcelona and the culture.

We have about 200 supporting members, but we also have a number of other people, about 2,500, who just follow us on Facebook. Occasionally, we have taken a trip to Barcelona together. One time the president of FC Barça came to visit when the team was in town to play a friendly. Normally it’s about getting together and enjoying some great soccer. And we are always on the lookout for more FC fans to come

DCS: OK, one last question: Who is your favorite athlete?

AP: Carles Puyol

Interested in joining the Penya? Check out their facebook page.

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