1. How did you first get involved with 826NYC and why did you decide to volunteer?
Valerie Courtney: I’d heard of the magical and mysterious Superhero Supply Store in Brooklyn, but never really understood what exactly went on there. A friend worked at The Museum of Unnatural History chapter in DC and invited me to tag along to an 826 potluck where I had a blast and pieced the whole operation together. Soon after, I was looking for a creative outlet, a selfless hobby and a way to test whether or not I possessed the patience for hanging with kids. It was not without fear that I attended volunteer orientation behind the secret bookcase and fell in love with the program. I informed my boss that fate called and I needed to use my vacation time to start tutoring weekly!
Lindsay Neff: I’d known about 826NYC for a while, but it took me a few years in the city before I had the time to start. I made it one of my resolutions for the year, and then signed up. (Still haven’t gotten to the exercise resolution, though. No regrets.)
2. What’s your favorite part of volunteering at 826NYC?
VC: I cherish the fact that for 2.5 hours, I’m able to forget the outside forces of life and focus on nothing but the kids. I rarely feel the need (or have the time) to check my phone or email. Instead, I respond to the writing prompts with the kids, make things out of construction paper (Kindergarten style) and absorb the kids personalities and stories while attempting to help them with their homework!
LN: The students are my favorite part. They’re bright and hilarious and weird, and helping them out helps you, too, and makes you feel like a part of the community — which can be difficult in a city as big as this one.
3. What do you do when you’re not at 826NYC?
VC: I’m a graphic/product designer. I work at a small stationery and gift company as an art director. I also try to make time to work on personal creative endeavors and amateur writing projects. I’m currently thinking up an interactive/epistolary story for young adults. Think Amelie meetsHarry Potter meets Harriet The Spy…
LN: I work in higher ed publishing by day, and sew, craft, write, and buy too many plants the rest of the time.
4. What advice would you give a new volunteer?
VC: If you ask a kid how their day was, they will most likely say it was “boring”. Instead, ask “what was the funniest/strangest thing that happened today” and take it from there. Also immerse yourself in the 826 community as much as possible. There are lots of like-minded folk to meet!
LN: Get as involved as you can! The staff and other volunteers are the best and will help you through even the scariest math homework.
5. What are your super powers?
VC: Breaking the ice, connecting the dots, keeping the peace, writing haikus and finding lost playing cards on the street!
LN: I make a super risotto and also am gifted with super long arms that give me a longer reach than my height would suggest.