This past week, I have been thinking about what to write in this last blog post of 2019, and, of the entire decade - no pressure there! I started reflecting on how far we have come over just the past year and the immense gratitude I feel towards the people who have invested an astounding amount of their time and talent, physical energy, positive vibes, and financial contributions - not to mention, the incredible families who trust us with their children’s education.
With all of that love and confidence standing solidly behind us, we are literally doubling our facilities and staff, and tripling our programming over the next week!
Looking back to the beginning of this academic year (as I have mentioned here before), I knew we would need to open a new facility – sooner or later. As the Fall progressed and we continued to add kids to our waiting list, it became apparent that it would have to be on the sooner end of things. Nevertheless, as with most things in my life, I trusted that everything would fall in to place, exactly when and where it needed to be. And, that is exactly what transpired – all starting with a spontaneous visit this past August.
One of our parents, happened to meet a friend at the local gas station. The friend was commiserating about how miserable her kids were in school. This parent said, “come with me, I have to show you this place that my kids love!” They showed up with kids, a grandparent, and a puppy in tow, during our Summer Programming. I gave them a quick whirlwind tour and then got on with my day of facilitating projects with the Summer Peeps – and in the process completely forgot the friend’s name.
Flash forward a couple weeks – Loretta, a Grandma (Mema) called to check out DRC for her grandchildren. We were full at that point, but I offered to meet with her to discuss options. Two amazing, in person, conversations, of marathon length, later, I discovered that her son owns a home in Lawrenceville that is massive, and upon inquiring, is open to having DRC use it as our permanent facility (we will use the Lawrenceville Fire Station short term until, it is ready for us). But the kicker of this whole story is, a month later, after finally putting the pieces together, I realized that the friend (Erin) who came by with the parent in August, is the one who told Loretta about us. And, after listening to Loretta expound on her many talents, I offered Erin the After-School Staff Position, which, I am thrilled to say, she accepted. I am excited to see how she, and our After-School apprentice, Ryan, bring this new program to life.
In this round about and inextricably, wondrous and serendipitous way, we now have a new center, an after-school program, and a lead staff person for each (not to mention, several more student members) all from that one spontaneous gesture!
This all would not have been possible without Chris. I really can’t begin to express my appreciation for my “sidekick” Christopher Raymo, who, like all well-respected sidekicks in the super-hero world, is the backbone and, let’s be honest, the magic behind the daily functions of DRC- Canton. He is the main reason I have been able to sequester myself in the office to focus on these expansion plans, as well as all the other admin. “stuff,” and the, essential, mentoring sessions with members. He, quietly and patiently, holds everything together, including the physical space. There is a reason I "secretly" refer to him as the “kid-whisperer.”
I am also thankful to have Chase Villeneuve as our apprentice at DRC- Canton. He has learned a ton over the last couple months and I anticipate awesome things from him, when we rely more heavily on him during the remainder of his tenure.
Trish Pielnik, has agreed to be our new lead staff for DRC-East in Lawrenceville; however, she is no stranger to DRC. After randomly picking up a DRC brochure from the Potsdam Food Co-op and “cold calling” one day, in February or March of 2017, to inquire about volunteer opportunities, she started spending one full day at the Center each week. Trish’s passion for the outdoors led us to begin the Water, Woods, & Wild Wonders in Sept. 2017, with her as our volunteer coordinator of that program. I am beyond grateful to Trish for not only making that initial phone call and her friendship, but for the amazing levels of empathy and compassion she brought to our kids each week in that role, and her leap of faith in accepting this position. I am super excited to witness the growth and accomplishments, as both she and our student members at DRC- East explore all the possibilities, and find their footing in that new facility.
While this post has been focused on the DRC staff, please know that this note of gratitude extends my deepest thanks to everyone (see the list above) who has had a role in getting us to where we are right now! I am beyond grateful and forever in your debt.
I look forward to exploring, with an open heart and mind, the many new serendipitous adventures and friendships this New Year (and decade) will bring! Onward!
* You will find the official bios of our inspiring staff (all 6 (!) of them) by following this link. *
Happy New Year to you all!
Two days left in 2019. Don’t miss out on tax-deductible contributions this year. You can donate online here.