A Downtown Phoenix Ambassador for a year, Lisa Banish brings a range of hobbies and areas of expertise to the position. She draws from her experiences with gardening, raising chickens, painting, photography and managing restaurants.
As an ambassador, Banish dons an orange shirt with an “Ask Me” logo on the back. She and her colleagues are ready to answer questions about restaurants, things to see and do, homeless services and directions. She also provides “What’s Happening” newsletters, directories and maps.
“This job is great for me because I can’t stand being inside,” Banish says with a smile. “I’m definitely not a desk person.”
Headquartered in CityScape, the ambassadors can be found seven days a week, 365 days a year in different parts of downtown from Third Avenue to Seventh Street and from Fillmore Street to the railroads tracks near Jackson Street.
Her job is always interesting because every person has different questions.
“That’s what I love about my job. It’s never the same day twice,” Banish says.
A former Maricopa County Animal Care and Control volunteer, Banish is a vegan, who uses those experiences to direct those with dietary references to appropriate area restaurants.
The ambassador often uses her photography talents for her job. She snaps pictures of buildings for the organization’s social media platforms, and refers visitors to places with the best street art.
“I love when people ask me where’s a good place to go to take shots, being able to point out stuff that’s not obvious,” Banish says.
She counts the Orpheum Theatre, Valley Bar and Melinda’s Alley as her favorite hidden gems. Each ambassador has her/his favorite hotspots.
“We’re definitely a diverse group of people, and we’re all connected through our headsets,” Banish says. “So, if we can’t answer questions, we usually go to each other first before we resort to Googling something.”
The ambassadors aren’t just about the Q&A. They offer hydration stations during major events, walking escort services, history and arts and entertainment tours, battery jumps and tire changes and updates on road closures and light rail closures.
Banish explains she assists the most people around the courts on busy juror days.
“I think people are pleasantly surprised somebody is there to help them, versus just leaving them stranded,” she says.
“Usually once somebody sees you answering somebody else’s question, then people will come over. Sometimes, you’ll have a line of people wanting to know where’s a good restaurant at lunchtime or where’s a good place to go where they’re not going to have to wait.”
The job is a continual learning experience. Recently, she and other ambassadors toured Central Arizona Shelter Services to learn more about it.
Originally from Niles, Michigan, Banish moved to Phoenix in 2000. Working in local restaurants, she became familiar with the ambassadors. After traveling for a year, she took a job with the ambassadors to return to the downtown she loved.
“I really missed being downtown. I really loved watching everything unfold,” Banish says. “It’s nice when people know that they can count on you to have answers.”
To reach the ambassadors, call 602.495.1500 or email email@example.com. More information is available at dtphx.org/about/field-services.