June Volunteer of the Month

Our June Volunteer of the Month, Adam Mistler, was seeking an opportunity for self-improvement when he stumbled across Tivoli’s Astounding Magic Supply. Inspired to volunteer with 826DC by his own dedication to writing, Adam admires the impact staff and volunteers have on students every week. He routinely witnesses the excitement and enthusiasm around workshops while stationed in the storefront on Saturday afternoons.

“I think writing is a good way to “deal” and I wanted to support an organization that helped writers- especially young ones who often feel that they have a lot to deal with. The kids are not just getting educational help, they are engaging. For all the times the world can seem like it wants to shut kids up, it is so important that they stay engaged. Both for them and the world around them,” says Mistler.

He also enjoys the quirky atmosphere that the children bring to volunteering. “The best Saturdays to “work” are those that 826DC is also hosting workshops. The kids are what it’s all about, right? They provide a kind of energy. They also provide unparalleled entertainment value.”

That “energy” inspires Adam to practice his own magic. Among staff, he’s known for having powers of illusion that rival David Copperfield and the Amazing Tivoli himself. “I know it’s extreme, but I would put Adam right up there next to Penn. Maybe not Teller, but definitely Penn,” says 826fancy head shotDC Development & Communications Coordinator Caroline. “Wait– which is which again? Maybe I meant Teller.”

Development Assistant Rita swears she once saw Adam disappear an entire large pepperoni pizza in the blink of an eye: “Adam is a natural talent. I’m just sayin.” Volunteer Coordinator Paige agrees, saying: “When I first met Adam his eyes were green. Now they’re definitely brown. How does a magician even do that?”

Whatever his secret is, we’re incredibly grateful that Adam stumbled into 826DC, and even more grateful that he continues to make our storefront a quirky and engaging place for visitors and students alike to learn more about the ways we support young authors. Visit Tivoli’s Astounding Magic Supply Company to witness his magical ways and see how you too can get involved with 826DC’s storefront.

May Volunteer of the Month

May volunteer of the month Pack Landfair would like to meet Waldo someday. Yes, that Waldo. At least that’s what he told a group of third through fifth-graders during last school year’s Newspaper Club, held every Wednesday afternoon at Tubman Elementary. For the past 2 years, Pack has served as a mentor to the students in Newspaper Club as they learned the ins and outs of publishing a paper, from lead to layout.

“When I was in college in the early 2000s, I became a huge Dave Eggers fan and decided I would volunteer at an 826 when I grew up” says Pack. “The kids are what make it fun – watching them learn and grow, and being part of such a positive environment.”

Woodrow_Landfair,_Land_of_the_Free,_Release (2)
Pack Lanfair reads from his book, “Land of the Free”.

Development Assistant Rita says: “When Pack misses a week of Newspaper Club, all the kids notice. I think he’s the most memorable volunteer for them because he engages so well on their level.”  Last year, members of the newspaper club chose to feature Pack in the inaugural edition of The Tubman Toad. See below for the student interview we couldn’t possibly top, and read the full issue here.

We congratulate Pack and thank him for his incredible service! Be on the lookout for more fantastic pieces from the student journalists at Tubman as they publish their second edition this Spring.



To the Moon and Back with Pack 

By The Tubman Toad Journalists

Meet Stanley Woodrow Landfair IV, also known as Pack, who lives on H St NE in Washington, DC and has been on TV. He has two older sisters, Monica and Jennifer. His dad lives in California, where he used to spend his summers, and during the school year he lived in Virginia with his mom.

Pack has curly, light-brown hair, green eyes, and wears a navy shirt with Army shorts that he bought at Goodwill by Costco. He’s 32-years-old.

When he was young, he had an American flag mailed to him that was flown over the U.S. Capitol on his birthday. He explains, “It’s the cheapest way to get a really nice flag.” His favorite color is burnt orange and he wears a ring from the University of Texas, where he went to school. He loved to play baseball and also liked to wrestle and much more!

Pack likes all kinds of music and used to live with musicians. When he was young, he liked to put helium balloons in people’s cars for their birthdays.

“I just want to make a living and enjoy myself and have fun,” he says. When asked about other fun things, Pack added he would like to go to space and said, “I’d like to be buried on the moon.”

He wrote a book about trying to look for a job by driving on his motorcycle around the country. He enjoys watching Seinfeld, a comedy show. His favorite book that he likes to read is Waldo. “I’d like to meet Waldo.”

April Volunteer of the Month

When Claire first started volunteering, students called her “Neekta’s sister” — apparently seeing a resemblance to our on-site programs manager, who they still think lives in the writing center. Since then, Claire has developed lasting relationships with our students and continues to make after-school tutoring a space where “I know you can do this!” is the mantra. 826DC has been so lucky to have her with us and we wish her all kinds of success in her future endeavors!

How long have you volunteered with 826DC, and how did you get involved?

“I’ve been an After-School Tutor since January 2015 – nearly a year and a half, now! I had just moved to DC the preceding September, and I knew that I wanted to find a way to get involved in my community. I’ve long wanted to be a schoolteacher, too.

“Taking all of this into consideration, I began searching for volunteer opportunities with three criteria in mind: I was looking for an organization that 1) focused on education and children, 2) served my neighborhood of Columbia Heights/Petworth/Mount Pleasant, 3) would provide me with a chance to practice my teaching and tutoring skills.

“Clearly 826DC fit the bill, and, after finding the organization through an internet search, I signed up as part of the After-School Tutoring team.”


What will you take away from your time volunteering with 826DC?

“As I prepare to leave DC for a teacher preparation program in the Midwest, the biggest lesson I’ll take with me is this: show up, be present, be patient.

“There were some days of tutoring when I felt like I wasn’t making a difference, like I didn’t know how to be an effective tutor. And that was scary, especially for someone considering a teaching career! But the more I attended AST and the more I got to know 826DC’s amazing students, the more I learned to have faith in the slow pace of things. A concept that didn’t make sense one week suddenly clicked the next. A student that seemed unwilling to engage one afternoon would be focused and animated the next. Over time, I was able to learn new habits of how to speak to and encourage students.

“But I wouldn’t have witnessed this slow change if I didn’t show up. Even when I felt like a day hadn’t gone as planned, I learned to appreciate the small things that had gone right. These small things – a smile of recognition when I walked in the door, a conversation with a parent – were the building blocks of my connections with the students of 826DC. And these connections, in turn, made it easier for me and a student to work together on a difficult homework problem or a long assignment.

“As I prepare to become a high school teacher, I hope I can always remember this: that the slow work of connecting with a student is sometimes hard to perceive, but always worth the wait.”


What do you see as 826DC’s impact on our community?

“I believe that 826DC provides students with something very important: a place where reading, writing, and homework aren’t bound by the typical “rules of school.” I appreciate how 826DC encourages students to approach homework and with the same playful and confident spirit as their creative writing. I see tutors helping students build this confidence in their own abilities. “I know you can do this!” is one of the most common phrases of encouragement I hear at After-School Tutoring.

“I believe that this confidence can extend beyond the classroom and 826DC to many other areas of a student’s life, and that can have far-reaching impacts on their families and communities. Plus, a magic shop in Columbia Heights? That’s pretty awesome, too.”

March Volunteers of the Month

Once again, we couldn’t pick just one Volunteer of the Month. This month we’re honoring our wonderfully dedicated Young Authors’ Book Project volunteers, all nine of them! We’d be Long Lost without their dedication and support throughout this year-long project. Recently, we asked Phil Fager, Jeanie Johnson, Jacqueline Collins, Dillon Babington, Elis Rosa, Neil Cooler, Stephen Miler, Lesley Allin, Tara Campbell to tell us more about their involvement with 826DC and their most memorable experience with our flagship publishing project. Stay tuned for more information about picking up your very own copy this Spring!

How did you learn about 826DC, and what made you decide to start volunteering?

LA:  Through my daughter, who had one of his stores in her building in Los Angeles.

PF: I was looking to find an organization to volunteer with, specifically one that focused on education.  My girlfriend was familiar with 826DC and thought it could be a great fit.

TC: When I made a career change to writing and editing, I quickly found that a more flexible schedule can sometimes lead to hours flitting away without impact. I  live in Mt. Pleasant and just happened to stumble upon 826DC’s Museum of Unnatural History storefront. With their emphasis on writing and creativity, I knew that these were people I could hang with.

What is your most memorable experience while volunteering with YABP?

LA: I have been moved by the students I mentor. They have told me the most heartbreaking stories of love and generosity, of grandmothers and mothers and fathers who show their love with food and sometimes make connections with a country of origin so they will not forget. I have been moved by their willingness to share these stories and to trust me to help them become better writers and story tellers. I have been surprised that they have engaged in a partnership with me, someone old enough to be their parent or even grandparent. They have written the most touching thank you notes to me!

PF: My most memorable experience was at the end of the program when I asked one of the students I worked with how she felt about her story and she responded with the biggest smile that she was really happy with it.  Seeing them work on it week after week and see this kind of response when all the hard work was done was amazing.

TC: One of my most memorable volunteer moments was in the creative writing class in Southeast. One of the students I was working with was very quiet, and seemed generally unenthused about being there. I knew she had other major things going on in her life, so I assumed this class was pretty low on her list of priorities. But when she handed me a story she’d written that semester, I was blown away. It was substantive, detailed, and emotionally affecting—a far cry from the minimum required to get by. I then realized that behind the tired eyes staring at her desk, she really had been paying attention and had something to say. And the cherry on top: last spring I got to see her read one of her stories at an 826DC reception at the vice president’s house.

If you could open up a 826 chapter, where would it be located and what would you sell in the storefront?

LA: I would open up a 826 chapter in London and sell all kinds of things that encourage reading and writing, especially cozy blankets, good writing implements and beautiful paper.

PF: I would open one in my hometown.  I was born in a town a couple of hours south of Chicago and they don’t have programs like 826.  I know I would have appreciated having a group like 826 to help with my own creative writing when I was a kid.   I’d sell classic movies and memorabilia and maybe create a couple of new Stanley Kubrick fans.

TC: How about an 826DC chapter in my hometown: Anchorage, Alaska! You could have a tropical paradise theme to lure people in during the long, cold winter.

JC: I would definitely open a chapter in Cleveland, and the store front would be a mad meteorologist’s lab.

February Volunteers of the Month

Sometimes it’s really difficult to pick just one “Volunteer of the Month.” In February, we’re honoring the fantastic team of coordinators behind our Reading All-Stars program. We sat down with Andrew Masloski, Becky Williams, Andrew Gilligan, and Kalli Krumpos to learn more about their involvement with 826DC’s Saturday literacy program at Harriet Tubman Elementary.

Sincere thanks to the ladies and gentlemen who keep our students reading every weekend, including their recently relocated cohorts, Sandra Hinderliter and Noah Drori! Your impressive commitment to 826DC allows us to reach so many more students in deep and meaningful ways.

How did you come to learn about 826DC and volunteer?

AM: I became a volunteer after the election of the president in 2008 when some of us who had already been spending Saturdays knocking on doors wanted to be able to give back to our local community.

BW: I became involved with 826DC after participating in a beautification day activity at Tubman Elementary school that was led by the Reading All-Stars coordinators. It was easy to see that the program involved a wonderful team of volunteers dedicated to supporting the students in the community. I knew instantly I wanted to be part of it!

AG: I learned about it at a volunteer fair in January 2013 (was going down on the National Mall)…826 DC had a table set up, and this seemed like a great program where I did not need to commit to times during the week, which can be tough for me with work. From that, I just emailed the head volunteer at the time, attended a training session, and then started coming consistently.

KK: I learned about 826 Valencia in an English course in college. After graduating, I was able to start volunteering and the program that fit my schedule best was Reading All-Stars.


What is your favorite part about volunteering?

AM: My favorite part about volunteering is being able to share my love of reading with the kids. It’s so critical to their success in the future and it leads to some funny conversations depending on what you’re reading!

BW: There are so many favorite parts!  It began with Allison, the student I started reading with 5 years ago, and now includes each individual student and volunteer that I get to interact with on Saturdays. Seeing the relationships that are built and the progress our students make is amazing!  My last favorite over the past couple years was working with our two superstar coordinators Sandra and Noah. They just moved to Boston, but have left a lasting impression on me, the program, and Tubman community.

AG: Seeing the kids excited about reading and the possibilities it offers. When a kid and volunteer have been reading together consistently for a while, it is great to see the kid come in excited and confident in their ability to read with someone they look up to!

KK: Volunteering with Reading All-Stars ties me to the community. I love that being a part of this program enhances a culture of learning while bringing people together. Not only does it help our volunteers meet other volunteers, it allows us to get to know the families who live in the city. I enjoy seeing the students and their families at the school during our program, but we also see each other at the grocery store and walking down the sidewalk and at the soccer field, and it’s so rewarding to be recognized as someone from RAS.


What children’s book would you most like to live inside?

AM: If I had to live inside a book it would probably be Mo Willems’s “I Am Invited To A Party”.

BW: I’d love to meet the Little Prince (in the book by Antoine de Saint-Exupery)

AG: Good question! I would have to say Dr. Seuss… really any of his books, I am not sure how he does it, but any time a kid or you read one of his books, it makes you laugh and is always clever.

KK: I would enjoy meeting Elephant and Piggie in one of Mo Willems’ books, especially “We are In a Book!”