Tell us a little about yourself and your work.
I manage the Byrd House Farmers Market and Grace Arents Library. I started here as a face painter in 2008 (the market’s second year) and took over as manager during the 2010 season. My education is in the arts and my work experiences include landscape design, art teacher, citizen diplomacy, social justice activism. For 8 years before William Byrd Community House (WBCH), I worked in homeless services in public relations and training.
WBCH has a 90+ year history of responding to neighborhood and community social services needs. It has been a settlement house, a community center, a sports and recreation program, and in the 1950s became a preschool. Throughout this history, the library has provided access to books as well as librarians to the Oregon Hill community, and supported the curriculum of St. Andrew’s School, a private tuition-free K-5 school for low-income children until they established their own library.
In recent years our Children’s Services programs have focused more on early childhood education and a more holistic approach to ensuring children can thrive in the classroom and out of it. From 2007-2010, we added nutrition education and food desert remediation with the establishment of a community garden, farmers market and small production farm.
What do you love most about your job?
I like to see people make empowering discoveries about themselves through exposure to new ideas and experiences. A new book found on the shelf, a new vegetable tasted at the market, a new herb harvested from the farmlet, a new volunteer sharing stories with children or staff – every day there are a myriad of opportunities for our children to find out how much bigger the world is than they thought, and what they can do in it. It’s rewarding when I see their eyes light up!
What have you found most challenging?
I manage a library, a market with 20-25 small businesses, and I write grants. These are 3 very different worlds which combine to help make WBCH the special place that it is. We create an environment for our children, their families, each other and our neighbors that is unique in the city. I’ve had to learn to think with vision for the long term and pragmatism for the day-to-day (and vice versa!).
Everything we do is tested on a daily basis by our children and staff, shoppers and neighbors, so we find out quickly if it’s working or not. At the end of the day, my biggest accomplishment and lesson is remembering that I am working for the children.
What’s coming next that has you excited?
We will launch our new purpose, mission and vision with the new school year. Our Head Start enrollment will increase by 20 children this fall. We are transforming our general interest library into a children’s library with a parent resource center. A permanent tent at the farmers market was established to strengthen the public perception of the market as a program of WBCH – it’s a place where teachers and staff share information about our preschool programs and connects our children and their families to fresh foods and the people who grow them.