Gophers are the essential volunteers at the convention. They "go for" drinks (hence the name "gopher"), move chairs, check badges and generally do a lot of the important volunteer work at the con.
Eastercon is a fan-run convention and everyone is invited to get as involved with running it as they feel comfortable. For many people this can be taking part in Programme or in preparatory work before the convention ... but for many it is volunteering to help at the convention. Anything from checking badges, to moving chairs. All the essential bits of work that need to be done by someone so that everyone can enjoy the convention. It doesn't matter if you can only help for ten minutes, all volunteers are very welcome and help make it a better convention for all.
And often, as a reward/thank you for helping out, there will be "Groats" which are tokens that can be redeemed to buy beer, soft drinks and food from the hotel bars/restaurants.
Gophers vs StewardsEdit
Sometimes it means the same thing, sometimes "Stewards" are actually a polite name for "Security" and so the difference is that Stewards would usually have a fixed location (checking badges outside the Dealers Room for example) while Gophers would more normally be used to handle short term or mobile requirements (carrying art from the Art Show to the Art Auction for example).
Gophers vs StaffEdit
Another semantic distinction. Staff are volunteers usually recruited before the convention starts and are allocated to a particular area. For example there may be Green Room staff who will spend most of their volunteering time at the convention in Green Room or doing Green Room related activities. Green Room may occasionally also need Gophers. Some staff jobs are performed before the convention (putting Progress Reports into envelopes and sending them, sitting on Registration tables at other conventions, distributing flyers in local bookshops, answering questions on the internet forums etc.).
So Gophers are general purpose volunteers who are assigned to jobs as needed, and are essential to the smooth running of an Eastercon.
Most convention security consists of having someone posted near the main doorways and checking that only convention members are coming into the convention areas. However the value of the stock in the Dealers Room and Art Show can be sufficiently high that paid professional security may be employed. Similarly if the convention hotel is in the middle of a city it is fairly common to have professional security (often provided by the hotel) on the main door of the hotel during the evenings to let people know it's a private function and the hotel is closed to non-Convention members.
A place where volunteers can hang out, and can sign up to help with various things through a convention. A gopher hole can vary from just a set of sign-up sheets, to a room with jigsaws, games, Lego(tm) and (sometimes) snacks and soft drinks.
The Gopher Hole is often organised by Ops and is under control of the Gopher Mom.
The Gopher Mom is the person responsible for organising gophers, setting up shifts, handing out Groats, making sure the Gopher Hole is running smoothly etc.
The Gopher Mom may be male or female (or other), the title comes from the nurturing parent role in looking after and controlling their "family" of volunteers.