Coaching people is what I really enjoy, and at the Brunner Literacy Center it has been my delight to find a wonderful group of people who are willing to try new things and take some calculated risks. Being small and appreciating each other on a personal level has certainly helped as well as our recognition of the unique gifts of everyone involved.
At our first retreat together last July, I asked each of our staff to take the StrengthsFinder assessment which helped them to identify their “strengths,” those areas in which they have the most natural abilities. StrengthsFinder is an outgrowth of the positive psychology movement which is not focused on dysfunction, but rather on what people do well and how they can continue to improve in what gives them life and makes them whole. We learned some interesting things about each other, lessons that we have been fortunate to bring back to the Center as we support each other, not only in the work at hand but also in the equally important work of becoming all we can be as professionals and as people.
Before I came to the Brunner Literacy Center as my “encore” career, I was working at the University of Dayton, managing the training and development of staff, and focusing on leadership development across the campus. The only thing that was missing for me was interaction with students. I encountered them on a daily basis, but my interactions with them were sporadic and arbitrary. Nonetheless, my professional encounters with those working with students helped to satisfy my need to help others to discover and maximize their talents.
At Brunner, I have a similar situation. We are all here to help the students to succeed, but my position does not have a student-specific function. I see them all the time, but my responsibilities preclude a lot of interaction with them. I am more focused on our staff and on interactions with folks externally.
While some may see this as a negative, in my experience my investment in those who either work directly with students or perform functions that support our operation is very rewarding in its own right. There is something exhilarating for me about seeing someone mold their raw talent into a new area of expertise, or incorporate a new skill into their repertoire of competencies.
We have been fortunate to expand our staff since I have joined the BLC, mostly because we have expanded from one site to four in the 18 months I have been here. In addition, functions that were handled by outside vendors have now been brought in-house, and we have become more self-reliant and confident as we move the BLC forward.
I am so proud of the staff at the BLC – their talents, their commitment, their willingness to grow and stretch. And I am so glad that my job responsibilities allow me to steward their development and create an environment in which we and the students all continue to learn together. It is simply the best.
One reason I have enjoyed my job as receptionist at the Brunner Literacy Center is getting to know the many tutors and others who volunteer their time to help people’s lives change by helping them become more literate.
When I was a child, I remember my parents being involved helping at school, at church, and in the community. I grew up knowing that helping others is just what people should do. My husband Joe and I have been involved in a number of ministries and activities at school, at church, and in the community. We tried to show our children that life is about more than just “my needs, my wants.” Going out of ourselves, being there for others, helps to make us better people and the world a better place.
It would be wonderful if more parents could include their children in discussing donations to charities. Parents play a big role in helping their children to be involved in gathering money or supplies, and helping their children to gain a sense of awareness of the needs around them. Then the children can begin to understand how they might help to meet those needs.
Each year for Christmas my friend Sharon Samson and her family choose an organization to help, and they get the whole family involved.
This year they talked about the Brunner Literacy Center, and the children were amazed to learn that there are adults who don’t know how to read. It made the children even more eager to pick out things to donate to help the BLC with our mission of promoting literacy.
These children are blessed to be part of a family that values books and reading. Sharon was a school librarian for several years. The children have been read to since they were born, and I think they now appreciate that even more!
Sharon, her son Jordan, and two of her grandchildren delivered a variety of supplies, including candy, coffee, water, school and office supplies, cleaning supplies, and more. We often get donations at the BLC from groups of adults, and we certainly appreciate them all. What touched me particularly about this family’s donation (besides the fact that they are close friends of mine!) is what a learning experience it was for the children.
By helping a different nonprofit each year, these children’s eyes and hearts are being opened to needs around them, and seeing what a difference their efforts can make. This gives me hope that they will become adults who reach out, who care about others, who help to make the world a better place. One person, one family can make a difference!
Many thanks to the Samson family for selecting the Brunner Literacy Center as their Christmas project this year!
The BLC received a tremendous donation of supplies today from the Farrell family and their friends. These gifts will last the Center a long time, benefitting our students, volunteers, and staff, as well as substantially easing the financial burdens of certain aspects of daily site maintenance.
When the Farrells first contacted the BLC back in October, we had no idea what was in store for us. They explained that their family has a Christmas tradition of throwing a party for family and friends, and in lieu of personal gifts to their family, they select a charity and ask their guests to contribute something tangible to that organization. Everyone brings their gifts to the party, and the Farrells make the delivery later on. They asked for the BLC's wishlist of supplies, and we sent it to them. We already appreciated their interest and willingness to help, but we were not prepared for the sheer magnitude of their family and friends' generosity.
Check out these pictures:
We took inventory before finding storage places for all these gifts (no easy feat!), and here's approximately what we received:
Absolutely incredible. The BLC is deeply grateful to the Farrells, their families, and their friends for this beautiful Christmas gift!