Volunteer of the Month

Care to meet the elite team of supervolunteers whom we’ve honored over the years?

FridayJuly 2019

If you have ever talked with Lara Zielin, then you know how enthusiastic she is about writing, about Ypsilanti, about 826michigan, and about living! We are so lucky to have Lara as a long-time volunteer and board member. Many of you will recognize Lara from her recent stint as a caller during 826michigan’s first-ever paddle raise at the Storymakers Dinner this year (more on that in a moment), but Lara has been a supporter of ours from the very beginning. She taught creative writing workshops about how teens can publish their writing and hosted book release parties and YA author panels at our Liberty Street location. She and her partner Rob also worked with 826michigan students in a special ice cream and writing workshop (yes, the dream come true) called The Scoop: Words about Ice Cream through which students called upon their sensory details to describe the smells and tastes of Milk and Cookies and Motor Oil, a special Go! Ice Cream flavor made in 826michigan’s honor (note: She and Rob started Go! Ice Cream in Ypsilanti!). Go! Ice Cream has also generously donated treats to 826michigan release parties and special events, and hosted 826michigan in their amazing downtown Ypsi space for tours, meetings, and celebrations. And they always champion our work and help spread the word about 826michigan student writing through special promotions!  

Now, back to this paddle raise! For those of you who missed it, this fundraising effort involves a caller (like an auctioneer) rallying crowd members to raise a paddle to donate to support specific parts of 826michigan programming (think $500 to support a bus for an 826michigan field trip!). Being the caller requires energy, understanding of programs, panache with words, charm, improvisational skills, courage, and, well, magic, basically, all of which Lara rolled out to the extreme. To say that Lara was a fantastic caller is not truly enough …inspired, transcendent, on fire are all words that we heard afterward. This woman was jumping up and down, pretending to be an air horn in front of more than a hundred people on behalf of 826michigan. Her efforts helped 826michigan raise over $25,000 and her willingness to harness all of her superpowers to support our team brought several in the room to tears (of amazement!) and inspired them to join in the fray by jumping up and down (and donating!) alongside her. We cannot thank you enough, Lara, for sharing your brilliant shine and bravery with our team in this important way!  

Lara’s superpowers are endless — here are a few more special notes about her:  

  • She really believes in the power of writing — her latest book, Author Your Life, is all about how she changed her life by writing it into existence (check it out here!)
  • She does webinars around this and has a really inspirational newsletter about it as well to help others write themselves into the lives they want.
  • She’s written three YA fiction novels, a networking guide for teens, and even published a series of romance novels under a pseudonym!
  • She has a dog named Muenster, after the cheese.
  • She showed up to Storymakers Dinner carrying an A+ frog-shaped purse.

We love Lara and we are grateful for her support at every level of our organization! Sound that airhorn with pride!

MondayJune 2019

“Can I work with Chris?!”   In our Ann Arbor After-school Tutoring Program, this is a common greeting shortly after students sign in for the day. Our June 2019 Volunteer of the Month, Chris Engers, is a beloved student favorite. Since January 2017, Chris has been an after-school tutor at…

SaturdayMay 2019

Elizabeth Bihary is one of our newest volunteers. She has jumped right into building wonderful relationships with weE-Bots at the Detroit Public Library’s Redford branch. Although she’s not studying anything connected to education at Oakland University , she has an amazing knack for releasing our young authors from writer’s block….

TuesdayApril 2019

Genevieve Jones is a long-time roboteer, having started volunteering with 826michigan in Ann Arbor, she has continued to bring her passion for working with young people to our Detroit space this year. Her consistency and calm has been anchoring to our tutoring space at the Detroit Robot Factory. As we…

TuesdayMarch 2019

Josi Ezinga was an essential and indefatigable part of a small team of volunteers that hosted two classes of Erickson Writers Club in the fall. She is a super-volunteer for five classes of Writers Club this winter—two at Erickson Elementary and three at Estabrook Elementary. That’s a lot of work!…

FridayFebruary 2019

Tom Arata is a tutoring all-star! Such a bright and caring beacon in the after-school universe that we couldn’t believe he had not yet been named VOTM (or, as we thought more about it, VoTOM!). Tom has been tutoring with our program in Ypsilanti since mid-academic year 2018, when he…

WednesdayJanuary 2019

Our January 2019 Volunteer of the Month, Beverly Manko, first came to 826michigan to attend one of our Courageous Conversations dialogues. In these sessions we talk with volunteers about creating space in our programs to have conversations about identity with our students.  Beverly is a docent at the University of…

SaturdayDecember 2018

Hatt Merlino has been such a welcome part of the Detroit After-School Tutoring volunteer roster. Their calm demeanor has helped set such a good tone in our tutoring space in Detroit this year. They have a unique way of engaging students in a warm and attentive way, with a sensitivity…

ThursdayNovember 2018

Sandy Karolak is a retired teacher that spends much of her time working with various schools around the city and their students, Sandy is one of the most caring people we’ve ever met. Last year, when it came to her attention that students who needed glasses in Ms. Lowe’s class…

MondayOctober 2018

Ben Schneedecker is the swiss army knife of volunteers. He magically seems to have all the little tools we need to keep 826michigan up and running. By day he is a coder, debunking and navigating problems into solutions and questions into answers. By night, or rather evening–and even more specifically,…

Liberty Street Robot
Supply & Repair
115 East Liberty Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48104
(734) 761-3463
Detroit Robot Factory
1351 Winder
Detroit, MI 48207
(313) 818-0255