- Sign up sheet (to play)
- Register prize donations
- Code of conduct
- 2013 FAQ (will be updated with a few changes for this year)
On Wednesday for part one, I described how Something Good grew from an idea to reality. Today, I’ll tell you how we made a difference.
Eighteen Kindles, cases, screen protectors, and earphones arrived to my home over the past few weeks, and it took hours to put everything together. Do you know how much I hate putting on screen protectors? Multiply that eighteen times. On the plus side, I am now an expert. But let me start this story at the beginning.
I put out a call for donations of money and LGBT books, and complete strangers contacted me with offers. Friends opened their wallets. Authors brought their friends to the effort. So much, in fact, that I contacted Amazon about charitable discounts. We received a commitment for ten percent off the list price, plus an open account for discounted purchases in the future.
“I want to contribute,” someone told me over Facebook. “I have a Best Buy gift card. Can you use that?”
After working out the details, a manager at the local Best Buy agreed to match Amazon’s offer. (Thank you, Ashley! Here are the photos I promised you.) I carried three brand-new Kindles home, terrified I would lose the Kindles through carelessness, damage, or theft.
“We could buy more than one Kindle,” I mused. “Maybe we could buy six.”
The donations kept coming in, and I had to adjust the game plan nearly every day. “Maybe we could buy ten,” I thought as I entered numbers into the Something Good spreadsheet. Vagabondia Creations offered to donate earphones, and that freed up more money for Kindles.
“Should we buy stylus pens?” I asked the ever-growing group of contributors. “Nah,” came the answer. “I never use one. What about screen protectors instead?”
The infamous screen protectors. How many hours I spent adjusting the pieces of plastic! But the money kept coming in…
“Seventeen Kindles,” I proclaimed to our awestruck group. “Plus cases, earphones, and screen protectors.”
Meanwhile, I’d received pledges for books from Less Than Three, Harmony Ink (the YA version of Dreamspinner), Damnation, Dark Hollows, JMS Books, Ylva, Torquere, Witty Bard, Carina, and Decadent Bono.
Authors sent books, or they sent money if their books were too mature. I had to ask people to hold off on donations because I didn’t know how many Kindles could be used at Lost-N-Found Youth. “Wait until spring,” I suggested, not wanting the liability of excess money.
THE TRIP THAT NEARLY DIDN’T HAPPEN
“Come and visit,” said someone who lived in Atlanta. “Deliver the Kindles in person. I’ll pay your expenses and host you.”
I didn’t know if I could spare the time (December is Advent Calendar, after all), but who could turn down that offer?
I threw myself into planning for every single contingency. Managing this number of books, Kindles, donations, and authors stretched my organization skills to the limit. Most difficult was needing flexibility. The Kindles might be placed in the drop-in youth center, and they might be given to youth residing at the shelter. They might be for public use, or they might be given as private property. Also, publishers and authors wanted to continue contributing books even after the delivery. I needed a way to send books to Kindles no longer in my physical possession.
“Why are you making it so hard for yourself?” someone asked.
“If I were doing it, I’d send the Kindles in the original boxes and let Lost-N-Found figure things out on their own,” said another.
“There must be an easier way,” I was told as I fought through the mountains of red tape. There were easier ways to donate Kindles, but there was no easy way to accomplish my vision.
I wanted a centralized, remote-accessible network flexible enough to adapt to multiple donation sites, multiple purposes, and continuing donations of books. I wanted to make the Kindles as safe as possible against theft, misuse, reselling, and accidental catastrophes. I wanted Kindles set for public shared use, private ownership, and transfer from one private owner to another—and I wanted to remotely change the Kindles from private to shared ownership (and vice versa) if necessary.
Amazon technical support and I carried on our torrid six-week affair, and I learned enough to make my head swim. I wanted everything to be right the first time because I couldn’t afford future trips to fix mistakes. At times, “rest” days turned into eighteen-hour marathons of technical support, fighting with the system, and struggling through the dreary scut work of collating hundreds of donated mobi files.
“I want to help,” people told me, but too many donors wanted to remain anonymous. Financial information needed to stay confidential, and I had to protect the integrity of book files from publishers. After many hours of practice and standardizing donations with a Google form, I streamlined the uploading process so I could load one book per minute to my network.
I set aside publishing deadlines. Offers for donations kept coming in, and a part of me winced at the extra work. I sincerely hated every email and private message asking questions that were answered in the FAQ. “But I needed to make sure this was right,” people told me. “READ THE FAQ!” I wanted to bellow. And yet, I pictured youth opening the Kindles and finding books to read. “Read the FAQ,” I answered in as polite of a tone as I could muster.
“You have to take this to a national level!” someone told me. “Failure is not an option!”
The pressure caused me not to sleep at night. What if I screwed things up? What if I couldn’t anticipate problems? Then, it happened. Two weeks before the trip, the offer of hosting was rescinded. The individual promised to pay for a hotel instead but disappeared the next day, blocking contact. Sick to my stomach, I contemplated my options. Cancel the visit? Ship the Kindles and conduct the training via Skype? I went to my group, the wonderful group that had stood by me from day one.
“What do I do?” I asked. “I’m sorry I let you down. Here are our options. This is your money; what do you want me to do?”
“We’ll pay for you to travel,” said Less Than Three. “As long as you don’t throw elaborate Jacuzzi parties with the money. We don’t approve of throwing lavish parties without inviting us.”
“I can’t manage anything this pay period,” said another person who had already contributed hundreds of dollars toward the Kindles. “But if you can wait a few weeks, I’ll give something.”
“How much do you need?”
“We want to send you.”
“I can give a little. Is this enough?”
Overwhelmed, I thanked everyone through tears. The trip was still on.
A NEED TO FEED
In the last days before my trip to Atlanta, I descended into a baking frenzy. I made two pans of chocolate chip bars, two loaves of bread (turkey-cheese and cinnamon-walnut), and some garlic baby dinner rolls. (I didn’t make the butter. Sorry.)
Not pictured: Christmas stocking, full-size Kleenex, soda, apples, Christmas socks, and vegetables
I also put together a gift package for “Heidi,” the girl in rehab. I heard that her favorite color was pink, so I found every pink item I could. I figured she would get served bland food in an institution, so I threw in some fresh produce and junk food. (What? They balance each other out, right?) I’d visit Lost-N-Found to train staff on the Kindles on Friday, and I’d meet Heidi on Saturday.
When I arrived, I was greeted with an enormous hug from Sue, the manager of the drop-in youth center. She and I had exchanged phone calls weekly, sometimes more often. A retired special ed preschool teacher, she exuded warmth and trustworthiness. Five minutes into our first phone call, I was ready to sign over Kindles, books, and whatever she wanted.
“I won’t make any decisions without consulting you,” she promised.
“You know best,” I answered. “You know the kids, the center, and the program.”
Working at a non-profit organization is a hard, thankless job. Passions run high and politics get involved. Sue, who isn’t even paid staff but a volunteer, donates her time and personal funds to take care of the young adults who visit the center. Even more, she jumps in with her whole heart. It’s easy for people to perform a job, but it’s a lot more difficult to walk in each day willing to let one’s heart get broken. These are youth who may not have had good role models or parental figures, and they haven’t always been taught respect for authority, women, and women in authority. Sue spends time with each youth and reinforces basic life lessons at each step.
None of this project (Something Good) would have happened without Sue, and she has my utmost respect. We often hear from and praise the public faces of organizations, but for every public figure there are a dozen hardworking servant leaders behind the scenes. If Sue had not answered the phone the second time I called and cancelled out the first impression (that LNF had no interest in Kindles because they only wanted cash for renovations, and technology was worthless because it would depreciate), Something Good would have died as yet another Ana idea.
Sue and I went to the youth center along with a few other staff members. We spent nearly two hours going over all of the contingencies, the quirks of the network, and how to navigate all of the safety restrictions I’d implemented.
“Wow,” said one when I explained that my network would allow for future book deliveries even after I left. “Now I’m understanding why you wanted a long-term relationship.” I smiled and continued to explain the benefits.
“Where are your books?” asked a few staff members.
“Right there,” said another.
“These Kindles and books have been provided to you by 30-45 authors, readers, publishers, and editors,” I began.
“What are the names of the people?” someone asked.
“I’ll get you a full list of everyone except those who wished to be anonymous,” I promised.
DO YOU HAVE ANY SHAKESPEARE?
And then, training over, came the highlight of my day. “Jared,” a courteous and well-spoken young man, said he had never used a Kindle before. I invited him to sit next to me so I could show him how to use it.
“Do you have any Shakespeare?” he asked.
Stunned and delighted, I struggled for words. (It was hard to speak through the unexpected pleasure. The former literature teacher inside of me unfurled, thrilled to be called on.) “Not yet,” I admitted. “But I will get you some. Which ones do you want?”
“I read Midsummer Night’s Dream in AP English,” he said. “And Antigone. But I never got to read all of Hamlet.”
“I’ll get Hamlet for you,” I promised. If I had to pay for it out of my own pocket, I would get him some Shakespeare! “Midsummer is my favorite. I like Antigone, but I don’t like how both she and her sister are disparaged by…”
Jared and I discussed our favorite works of literature, and his smile grew wistful. “Maybe I’ll buy one of these for myself,” he said.
No, I wanted to shout. Don’t buy anything. We’ll give you one. But it wasn’t my decision alone, so I tried to point out the positives. “The Kindles will be here permanently. You can come to read it any time, and if you’re reading books you will get priority over someone using it to check email.”
“I’m starting a new job,” he said. “I don’t know if the hours will let me come here.” After a moment, he looked up. “If I buy a Kindle, could you send me the books?”
Yes, Jared. For you, I’ll give the moon and the stars.
“As long as it’s through LNF,” I answered, wondering where the boundaries were.
People who have been abandoned or treated badly by those closest to them can easily get hurt again. Trust comes slowly, or sometimes it comes too quickly and ends in unintentional betrayal. How can people believe in humanity when their parents have kicked them out? How can anyone undo the primal harm of a parent saying, “You are not my child because of who you are.”
Everyone has experienced some kind of rejection, and everyone but the most repressed has had some conflict with parents. But to be told, “You are not my daughter/son” or “You are not my child unless you go to therapy and straighten up”…How could any parent do such a thing?
“It’s not always because they’re gay,” Sue told me. “Sometimes it’s just because they’re alive.”
When I met Jared, I thought how proud I would be to have him for my son, brother, nephew, or parent. I did not get enough chance to talk to him because things were hectic, but I will always treasure our conversation.
Thank you, Jared. Thank you for being who you are.
But what about everything and everyone else?
(Part three of this series will be posted on Sunday.)
- Day 1: Welcome and Introductions
- Day 2: Giving Tuesday
- Day 3: 2nd Annual Holiday Recipe Exchange
- Day 4: Hating the Elf on the Shelf
- Day 5: Blue Christmas
- Day 6: St. Knickerless Day
- Day 7: Beyond Fairytales
- Day 8: Beginner’s Guide to Lesfic
- Day 9: Holiday Carol Sing-a-long
- Day 10: Creating Something Good, Part 1
- Day 11: Healing and Emotional Responsibility