It is incredibly hard for me to believe that, as of TODAY, JUNE 1, 2011, 826michigan has been up and running for exactly SIX YEARS. In fact, today marks the start of our SEVENTH year. This is amazing. I remember coming in for work on my first day at 826, exactly six years ago, not knowing what to expect. I remember, early on, hearing someone say that if a non-profit could make it through its first five years, it was pretty much set, and thinking, FIVE years? That’s a LIFETIME from now. And now, here we are, and that five-year milestone already feels so far behind us.
We’ve come a long way. Six years ago, we — I’ve made no secret of it — didn’t really know what we were doing. We are, in fact, living proof that a lot can be said for 1) having good intentions, and 2) plugging away. Because that’s what we did, for several years, and then things started falling into place. More and more students started participating in our programs. More and more teachers wanted to be involved with what we were doing. Our volunteer base grew. Our third executive director, Amanda, stuck around (I was beginning to worry we were cursed). We moved to a much more desirable location. Our volunteer base grew exponentially. Three years ago, we opened a robot shop. Our volunteer base grew more.
Looking around the office this afternoon, I would hardly recognize the 826michigan of yore. We have three full-time staffers, two part-time AmeriCorps people, and a full-timer for the summer from UM’s Development Summer Internship Program. We have several interns bustling about, hard at work as I type this. Tutoring is about to start, and we have a workshop tonight, and this weekend we’re hosting a writing conference for adults.
I find it funny and wonderful how many new volunteers seem to think it’s always been this way. I guess it’s a testament to how well-oiled this machine is now. Of course, it wasn’t always this way. There were many times when it seemed that we would close our doors; many times where our tiny staff (for a short and terrifying period of time, just me) felt lost. I no longer work sixty-hour weeks, and I don’t cry over late-night dinners at my laptop anymore. When someone has a question, I can usually answer it, and if I can’t, some other person on our amazing staff can. (Our staff really is amazing. I feel lucky to get to work with each of them. And don’t get me started on our students, or our volunteer base; we’d be here all day. Our students are a constant source of laughter and inspiration, and three hours at Erickson Elementary every Wednesday can make even the toughest week seem worth it. I’m continually awe-struck by our volunteers, who are so dedicated, and so brilliant, and so creative — and all just because they want to help out in their community.)
826michigan has touched my life, personally, in countless ways. I am biased, to be sure, but 826michigan has truly grown into a magical place in these last six years. I’ve watched it, firsthand. I hope you all feel like I do: That we are SO LUCKY to have this in our area. That our staff, and our volunteers, and our teachers, and our parents, and our supporters, and our schools, and our customers, and our students are SO LUCKY to have an 826 to come to.
So thank you all for the most life-changing, challenging, and rewarding six years of my life. I hope you feel as fortunate as I do to be a part of this whole thing. Here’s to six more, and then six more after that!