The first time we present a check to one of our Beneficiary-Nonprofits I like to deliver it personally. Usually this is my first face-time with someone in the organization, and for them with someone from our side. Good feelings abound. And the first tangible currency that is the product of all the hard work people representing both entities put in is finally exchanged. Yes, we give them money, oxygen to all nonprofits. But, they give me inspiration. To be honest, I think I get more than equal value!
It happens every time: I think I understand an organization, their mission, and how they work by reading about it and watching a few videos. Then I meet them, on their turf, and realize that I had no idea... Dropping off our check at City Year last Friday [$3,679.52 - our biggest so far!] did it to me again.
The grand tour of City Year Boston's headquarters as it turns out includes a tour of City Year's national/global Headquarters [yes, global: City Year is active in the UK and South Africa now].
Pictured above, left to right: Renaldo Mili, Kayla Faust, Jenna Hadley, Matt Parks, me, Nicole Kfoury, Stephen Mondach, and Emily Hildreth
I don’t have any experience with City Year out on the streets of in the schools, but a visit to their offices on Columbus Avenue is the organizational version of a group hug.
Big Citizenship is the new book by Alan Khazei, City Year’s co-founder on the subject of what he calls “pragmatic idealism,” which he first made manifest through City Year. I’m glad I’m reading the book AFTER my September 24, 1010 City Year visit; I witnessed in 90 short minutes so many of the concepts, values and traditions implemented in the organization’s early days, and described in the book’s early chapters. No executive or development office hand-holding: Young, 20-something corps members gave me an amazing tour of the four-floor headquarters building, including national/international headquarters’ offices, the Boston offices, the workshops and a variety of meeting spaces with whiteboard-paint walls full of ad-hoc dry-erase bullet lists and mind-maps.
What followed was a sit-down in a conference room with two new second-year corps members and now team leaders who were so inspired by their first-year experience that they decided that there was nothing they’d rather do than re-up. – And there they were: the whole lot of them, every new first-year Boston City Year corps member – in their signature red jackets and Timberland boots– in the large meeting room taking part in a spirited Friday Leadership Development Day training session together just off the first floor lobby… just like it says in the book, just as theyve done sinve the earliest days in the late 1980s. Everyone, and I mean each and every person I saw looked genuinely happy to be there, and fully-engaged in what they were doing. And what they are doing at City Year – fighting the epidemic school drop-out rate in our country – is critical to the future of America.
The corps members’ personal stories are uplifiting and highly-motivating for me. Not that I needed incentive to continue developing The Benefit Restaurant™ Project, but when I am afforded an insider’s perspective on the amazing systems, traditions, and people that our funding is supporting, my resolve to keep tuning and to figure out how to propagate the system we’ve implemented at our pilot restaurant, The Elephant Walk in Waltham, is refreshed and re-doubled.
So, this is a public thank you to City Year Boston – and specifically Elliot Haney who gave me the tour, [and took the picture in this post], Jenna Hadley and Nicole Kfoury the second-year corps members and team leaders who shared with me their personal stories, and Matt Parks, the Corporate Relations Manager who spent time with us and presented me with a copy of Mr. Khazei’s book [which I am half-way through and highly recommend!]. I am awed by your service and moved by your spirit.
Note: Alan Khazei will be speaking about his new book, Big Citizenship, at More Than Words, the Moody Street, Waltham bookstore-café [that – coincidentally, I promise! – is also one of our Beneficiaries] this Wednesday, October 6 at 7:00pm. I hope to see you there!