By Madeline DuBois
When I was given my service-learning assignment, I was very excited to be taking on a challenge. That excitement has not diminished, but my expectations have been adjusted. I initially thought the position would be very structured with specific tasks to be accomplished each time, but there is actually a lot of freedom regarding the order that Emily and I will accomplish the tasks that we have been given. This is due to the fact that the current staff at Friends of the Children is devoted mainly to the more hands on tasks of helping the Achievers, the children who benefit from the program, leaving less time than is needed to work on organization and procuring funding. Friends-Boston is currently in the process of hiring a new staff member to handle these necessarily neglected tasks; however, in the mean time, there is much work to be done.
This is where Emily and I come in- our role is to work on these little projects that have not been priorities in the busy schedules of the Friends-Boston staff, but are nonetheless critical to the functioning of the organization. We have been spending time familiarizing ourselves with Friends-Boston’s catalogue of grants that have been applied to in the past and language appropriate to use when applying for a grant for Friends-Boston. We also started the application process for a donation of gift cards from CVS. As grant writing novices, we are learning how to articulate the needs of the organization while maintaining the integrity of the message that the organization typically used in past grants. After the first application is complete, Emily and I have a whole list of different projects to work on. These tasks include applying to grants from Friends-Boston’s compilation of grants, researching and applying for other small grants, finding and reaching out to other potential community partners, assembling folders of information about the organization to give to prospective donors, and compiling an annual report for the organization. We can also take the initiative to start a monthly newsletter, expand the organization’s social media presence, and re-start a program where families can “adopt” a class of Achievers by donating money for several years and partnering with the children in the class. There is so much opportunity to help the organization, to expand their programs, and to learn useful skills in the process.
Thus far, my understanding of the community has not significantly changed. My interaction with the Achievers has been limited, as we work in the office and not directly with the children. However, my understanding of the operation of a non profit has evolved; I now see that there is much more behind the scenes work, like acquiring and documenting funding, than I had originally imagined. Also, I’m not familiar with the area where Friends-Boston is located, and I’m looking forward to exploring the area to gain insight into the community that we are serving and to see a different area of Boston. I’m so excited to not only continue to expand my horizons, but also to directly have a beneficial impact on the organization and to be trusted with so much freedom and responsibility.
Madeline is a student in Kim Irmiter’s Connections & Decisions course and is serving with Friends of the Children-Boston.