Jeannette, Brian, and Sondra, 826michigan's December Volunteers of the Month

December 2, 2020 | 826 Blog Post

826michigan has traversed many seasons over the past fifteen years. We’ve gone from a scrappy startup to a slightly-less-scrappy-and-still-spirited nonprofit, from serving one city to serving three cities, from one learning lab to two. We have experienced periods of growth and months of coalescence, times of joy and moments of heartache. Thankfully, we have a team of three trusty people upon whom we can rely during all the ups and downs: our Human Resources Committee. This December, Sondra Jenkins, Brian Johnson, and Jeannette Jackson, our HR Committee members, are our deeply deserving Volunteers of the Month.

Our HR Committee was originally formed when 826michigan was going through a period of growth. We realized that we didn’t have all the answers, and we recognized that we needed to consider how we could better support employees, structures, and systems to operate as the bigger-and-more-grown-up organization we were becoming. Because we didn’t have the capacity for a designated HR employee on our staff, we decided to reach out to friends, colleagues, and community members who did have the skills and experience to advise us. We were so lucky to find Sondra and Brian right away, and lucky again that Jeannette joined shortly after!

A bit about our HR Committee’s individuals:

Sondra Jenkins is a deeply skilled organization development consultant and an exceptional facilitator. Our staff personally witnessed her wizardry when she guided us through our strategic planning process in 2018. She developed and led us through a multi-day process to design a three year strategic plan. Sondra recently retired from the DIA as their Executive Director of Organization Development and HR. She has also done extensive work supporting professional development at Wayne State University, among other organizations. She is an active community member in Detroit who has made us all jealous by recently becoming a snowbird, now wintering in sunny Florida!

Brian Johnson is an executive with global experience in multiple Fortunate 500 organizations. He served as the head of Diversity and Inclusion at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles until he transitioned into a new role at the company in March. He brings a wealth of experience around change and performance management, strategic planning, and leadership development with a focus on diversity and inclusion to his work with 826michigan. He has shared smart and humanizing strategy guidance and effective best practices with our team. Brian has also helped facilitate all-staff planning sessions and connected with staff members individually, providing support to our team as we navigate change, especially in this year.

As the Managing Director of the BioSocial Methods Collaborative at the Institute for Social Research, Jeannette Jackson brings her background in organizational change and leadership development into her work on the HR Committee. Jeannette has facilitated many professional development sessions and courageous all-staff conversations over the years. In fact, she first introduced our team to the book Difficult Conversations, which we read as a staff in 2013 and then led a multi-session professional development workshop for our team around the book. For years, Jeannette served as an executive coach to 826michigan’s former executive director, Amanda Uhle. Along with serving on our HR Committee, Jeannette Jackson is a longtime 826 parent; both of her children have been long-time 826michigan participants when they were students! Her daughter Madeleine also went on to volunteer and then intern with us. 

We want to share just some of the many ways our HR Committee has supported us:

  • In partnership with staff members, they helped us do an extensive update to our Staff Handbook. Now it’s a living document that we use more actively, and not just a dry manual in a dusty filing cabinet.
  • They helped us make a more supported and robust process for employees at every stage of the employment lifecycle, from onboarding to performance evaluations to promotions to offboarding. At each stage, they helped us develop a process that offers more transparent written-out supports, policies, and processes.
  • They guided us  to identify opportunities for increased collaboration and multimodal communication across our three program cities.
  • They have facilitated staff meetings and planning sessions when having an external person is really helpful, and have supported our team’s professional development.
  • They have coached staff members individually when staffers seek additional expertise and skill development.
  • They are all some of the most warm, genuine, supportive, kind, skilled, and brilliant people we have ever had the pleasure of collaborating with.

In a year that has been extraordinarily difficult, Sondra, Brian, and Jeannette have provided support and thought-partnership at every twist and turn. They’ve helped us support each other in important and meaningful ways. It feels only appropriate that our final Volunteers of the Month for 2020 are the folks who have given us the encouragement and guidance we’ve needed to survive this unprecedented year. Thank you so much, HR Committee. We are so deeply grateful.

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