Monday, October 13, 2014

A view from 90 days in…

Blog by Linda Bollivar

I’ve just celebrated 90 days as the Program Director at MCLP. The time has gone quickly, and the biggest thing I have learned is the astounding amount of volunteer hours that are invested year-round to make this program so rich and successful.

A year ago, I was on the other side, participating in the class of 2014, and relishing the opportunity to learn from wonderful presenters and my fellow participants. I was impressed with the depth of the program; including presenters, mentors, non-profit board experiences, and the community project teams. Our project team, Let’s Care, developed training for the Community Cancer Center staff, and I was pleased to see what we could produce in a few short months with a team of diverse leaders and the expertise of our project advisor and technical consultants.

As the MCLP program year drew to a close, I was pondering how to best use my newly strengthened leadership skills. I absolutely loved my job as the Director of Faith in Action (FIA), a local non-profit. When I saw MCLP advertising for a newly formed position, program director, I was intrigued, but thought I wanted to spend a few more years at FIA. My analytical side made pros and cons lists about applying, while my faith-based side prayed for guidance as the vacant position nagged at me. I felt that the work I was doing at FIA was very important (getting seniors to the doctor and grocery shopping). However, I couldn’t get the thought of MCLP out of my mind.

One day, I was listening to WGLT and I heard a heartbreaking story about a human rights issue. The realization that I could do nothing to alleviate the suffering of those affected was like a punch in the gut. I thought to myself, “I can’t do anything about it. I’m helpless. I don’t have the time, money or expertise to fix this.” Suddenly, I was struck with an image of many stones being cast onto a pond, their ripples spreading out across the pond. I realized instantly that it was a representation of MCLP: Each year, a class full of participants is launched into the community like stones onto a pond. The leadership skills and network of support allow the MCLP participants to each follow their passion and make a difference in the causes near and dear to their hearts. The answer was clear to me: I can’t personally run all over and ‘fix’ every problem. But, I can play a role in an organization that is a catalyst for forming diverse leaders who can each follow their own passions.

So, here I am, celebrating 90 days at MCLP. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve realized that scores of volunteers have given hundreds of hours, and some volunteers have given thousands of hours in the past six or more years to establish MCLP. I’ve learned that we have an incredibly generous community—from our financial sponsors to our presenters, to the universities who provide us with office space. (ISU provided space the first five years, and now IWU is providing space.) In the past 90 days, we’ve launched a new class, hired an office assistant (Pollyanna Spears), moved to a new office (1309 Park Street), and received our 501(c)3 nonprofit designation. I’ve gotten to see the work that goes into each and every session, and see the way the class of 2015 is growing.

So what do I see happening in the next 90 days? As we go through the program year, I will get to find out all of the work behind the scenes as we plan for midterm project presentations, the networking fair, graduation, and recruitment. We will be looking to strengthen our processes and improve our documentation so we can make the best use of our volunteers. We are gathering community support to provide a strong financial foundation for MCLP for the future. I look forward to seeing how this class develops and who may be recruited for the upcoming classes. And speaking of recruitment, if you know leaders who might be interested in MCLP, invite them to the midterm presentations on December 6th. We hope to see you there!