Powering Through a Pandemic
By Elaine Hamel
What a year 2020 has been for all of us. Can you believe we’re heading into the final few weeks of this year? Thanksgiving is right around the corner. It’s the season of gratitude. So, let me start with just that…from the bottom of our hearts, THANK YOU!
We have so much to be thankful for this year. Girls at Work (GAW) has been (quietly) powering through the Covid-19 pandemic since mid-March. The sudden and unexpected changes certainly threw us a pretty big curveball, just as we started our move across town to the Manchester Millyard. While 2020 hasn’t been an easy journey for any of us, it certainly has been a lesson in persistence, perseverance and determination. Despite all of this we still have so much good news to share. So, we’re kicking off our new EMPOWER HER Blog with just that — an overview of our accomplishments in 2020 and a sneak peek to what’s ahead in 2021.
We’ve Officially Moved to the Manchester Millyard!
Our incredible new space in the FIRST Robotics building in the Millyard is up and running. During this month of Thanksgiving, it’s important to note that we’d never be in such a great space today without the support and partnerships of FIRST and so many others. We are grateful not only for FIRST, but also for Harvey Construction. The workshops are nearly complete, and the entire space is ABSOLUTELY AMAZING! The new space includes two brand-new wood shops, featuring power tools provided by BOSCH, a lumber storage area, and a state-of-the-art STEAM workshop with dedicated space for the GAW robotics team and room for science, technology, engineering, and math programming. We also have a beautiful kitchen, a gorgeous conference room, and our Kindness Closet is huge and already busting at the seams!
We also appreciate and just love all the old brick in our offices. This space is such a strong example of what ‘stronger together’ looks like. Despite the pandemic we stayed on track with the project thanks to over 1,000 Volunteer Hours from Timberland employees and a few dedicated locals! We are filled with gratitude for all who’ve stepped up for us in 2020. If you would like to come in and see our new space, please let us know we are currently scheduling tours on Wednesday mornings. You can also get a peek online through the various videos we’ve been posting on our Facebook video channel.
Keeping Our Little Builders Engaged – Home Kits for our Inner-City Girls
I have to admit it’s been really disappointing not hearing the hum of power tools in our new shop as they empower up our little builders. I am so excited to welcome their eventual return with the powerful and inspiring graffiti our volunteers have painted all over their shop walls!
Despite this, I am super excited to deliver a new round of projects our builders can ‘build’ at home. Our newest kit, which will be delivered at the end of the month is called the ‘YES YOU CAN’ classroom at home kit. It consists of a cube bookcase, pen holder and a lap desk with a battery operated LED light, that even has a switch! In the past, the lap desk was a project in the afterschool program, and several folks shared how their daughters were so excited to use them and even do their homework more often! I think we are all so consumed by our own feelings we tend to forget to check in with our little kids to see how they are feeling. I believe this classroom kit will leave our builders feeling like they have some sense of control, in these very uncertain times, and hopefully the new kits will boost their spirits.
Since we are unable to send tools home to our girls, we send wood glue, tape, lumber, and sandpaper. Each kit also has a set of directions with several empowerment activities as well as a link to an online instructional video. We’ve done a short video for the parents to thank them for hanging in, and to assure them these kits are not meant to add more work for them, but to ask them to support their girls by assuring them that ‘they got this’. One of our goals has always been independence and the opportunity to discover how much they can do on their own.
So far we have delivered indoor window boxes, with soil and seeds, bird houses with a hinged door for cleanout, a bird feeder with seeds, and a wish upon a star box with an led light, metal tape and a three volt watch battery. One parent shared that her daughter was pretty frustrated yet pushed herself through the process to finish her project. The good news is that she was successful, and it was wonderful to her that she actually danced around the house in celebration! It’s a great example of how we EMPOWER HER. I’ve watched thousands of girls build with us over the years and not once have I ever had to push any of them to stay on task. They all quickly turn on their ‘self-driven’ mode which is so awesome to see. We are going to ramp up our new project surveys to be certain we have the feedback needed so these girls feel empowered to push themselves through the projects, despite being surrounded by such uncertainty right now.
I’m psyched to share that we are increasing our kit deliveries and to-date have delivered 300 kits to over 100 girls. The goal for this project is to create and deliver 500 kits by the end of the year to girls in Manchester. We are partnering with inner city organizations who serve young girls and we will have assistance with the delivery as well as filling out needed paperwork on every little builder. We are also providing kits to the See Science Center, upstairs from us in the Millyard. They will be selling the kits on their website to help us out with logistics. The growth of this outreach project has been made possible by support from people like you, in addition to grant programs including the Cassie Heppner Foundation, People’s United Bank, Department of Education and so many individual donations. This is what #strongertogether is all about, so again thank you to so many!
Successful Virtual Diva Comedy Night and Auction
Like so many events in 2020, our annual Diva activities in March had to be re-invented. We are thankful for the ongoing commitment of People’s United Bank and all of our sponsors AND our volunteers for hanging in there with us as we navigated unchartered territories. In late September, we were able to finally pull off our annual event in an online format. The auction drew awareness beyond the borders of NH, so going virtual definitely expanded awareness of our mission and work, which was the silver lining. Like you, we miss in-person events and look forward to determining how we will move forward with awareness and fundraising events as we head into 2021.
The 2021 Outlook
While none of us know exactly what our world will look like in 2021, I’m confident that the challenges we overcame in 2020 definitely set us up to keep growing our organization. Again, we’ve been able to do this because of you. So thank you for being the ‘super duty’ glue that has kept us together and growing during these turbulent times.
Please stay well!
PS – While on the topic of gratitude’, I wanted you to see the gifts the girls in our leadership program built for the team at Harvey Construction. As I mentioned, Harvey was instrumental in the renovation of our new space. Their support as well as their commitment to our mission really kept our overall costs down – and we’re so appreciative. They were blown away to receive these beautiful cedar Adirondack Chairs and footstools – and were beyond impressed with their quality! (In fact, all of these girls have a verbal offer to work at Harvey one day.) Needless to say the girls were beaming – even through their masks! This is why we do what we do.