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.