Volunteer of the Month

We’re excited to honor our exceptionally talented team of volunteers through a Volunteer of the Month series. Each month we choose one volunteer to highlight in our newsletter and on our website. Are you excited to join our team of volunteers? Fill out a volunteer application to get started!

Smiling VolunteerMarch 2015: Donna Williamson
Donna Williamson has been a tried and true Storytelling and Bookmaking field trip volunteer at 826 Valencia for six years, starting with typing and bookbinding as part of the support crew, before she found her sea legs as captain leading the field trip on Tuesdays for the last three. In addition to igniting young imaginations via storytelling, Donna is involved in the ‘Tiny House’ movement, hoping to build one for herself someday, and is also pursuing her passion for filmmaking. “Being surrounded by the engaged and dedicated interns and staff at 826 keeps me feeling young and connected. Coming to the Mission every Tuesday is one of the highlights of my week and it is rewarding to still be contributing to a student’s learning experience now that my kids have all left home.” Read more about Donna Williamson.

William Poole, February Volunteer of the Month

February 2015: Bill Poole
Bill has volunteered as a writing tutor for Storytelling and Bookmaking Field Trips, Exploring Words Summer Camp, and most recently at Mission High School, helping students put together Mission Magazine. Bill grew up in New England and spent ten years as a registered nurse—working mostly with children and adolescents—and came to San Francisco in 1980 for a job at UC hospital. For several years he travelled, researched, and wrote the Detours column in the San Francisco Chronicle magazine. Most recently Bill has worked for 14 years as a writer and editor for The Trust for Public Land, eventually editing their magazine, Land & People. Read more about Bill Poole.

Christine Herrin

January 2015: Christine Herrin
Christine started off as an 826 Valencia design intern in 2013. One of her favorite design projects, that year’s winter mailer, helped seal her love for hand-lettering — one of her favorite memories from her internship is the day María sent her out to a cafe to “get inspiration and draw.” …How fun is that? Really, really fun — just like all the people at 826 — and that’s why Christine remains a design volunteer to this day. Aside from the winter appeal, she’s helped out by designing the past two issues of the 826 Quarterly, too. She absolutely loves and values her time spent as a volunteer at 826, because really, where else do you meet such interesting, passionate, just-as-dorky-as-her friends with a lot of heart? Read more about Christine Herrin.

Illustrator sketching in train car

December 2014: Aidan O’Flynn
Aidan O’Flynn has been volunteering at 826 Valencia since 2006, mostly as a Sunday drop-in tutor and as an illustrator for storytelling and bookmaking field trips. He’s seen students grow up from grade school to college, and collected over 150 illustrated storybooks, but he’s still never seen Mr. Blue. Volunteering at 826 keeps Aidan inspired for the rest of the week, when he works as a freelance artist and graphic designer. In a typical week, Aidan might be coding Javascript one day, standing up on a ladder painting preschool murals the next, and designing black metal album covers the day after that. Drawing for the kids keeps him ready for anything, while tutoring keeps him fresh on the basics: fractions, state capitals and expository paragraphs. Read more about Aidan O’Flynn.

November Volunteer of the Month: Ian Evans

November 2014: Ian Evans
Every Tuesday afternoon for the last eight years—16 semesters!—Ian Evans has served as a point person in our after-school tutoring program. In this volunteer leadership role, Ian welcomes students ages 6 through 14 who are seeking homework help and matches them with new and returning tutors. “My mom and grandma were public school teachers, and I’ve always gotten personal satisfaction in sharing knowledge and helping people learn. 826 is a perfect place for this. I’ve been able to get to know and help out so many amazing kids, and at this point I’ve seen many of them grow up and move on to high school and college. But it goes way beyond just helping out with math homework. I’ve been lucky enough to hear their stories.” Read more about Ian Evans.

Jess Hemerly and Jonathan Koshi: Volunteers of the Month

October 2014: Jess Hemerly and Jonathan Koshi
Jess Hemerly and Jonathan Koshi have been volunteering in our Buena Vista Horace Mann Annex since its launch last fall. According to BVHM Program Manager, Ashley Varady, this dynamic duo offers, “unique skills and expertise as tutors, and epitomize patience, flexibility, and a willingness to help out with a smile.” Jess has been a steady support for our young writers, helping the BVHM students on every step of the writing process. Jonathan, or Koshi as he’s known in the classroom, is popular among students for his artistic abilities, frequently drawing alongside the students to help them develop the characters and plot twists that populate their narratives. Read more about Jess and Jonathan.

Shannon and Austin Super Team Volunteers of the Month!

June 2014: Shannon David and Austin Hoffmann
Shannon and Austin took to the helm of the Valencia Bay-farer in Spring of 2012. They hardly knew each other back then (and hardly knew what they’d gotten themselves into!), but after teaming up to plan and teach the last 10 or so issues of this beloved in-house newspaper, they operate like a well-oiled machine almost all of the time. The Bay-farer is a mainstay of 826 workshops, and while it’s quite a task to keep the legacy alive, this dynamic duo has assumed the responsibility with courage, grace, and a respect for deadlines. If you had to pigeonhole them, you could say that Austin keeps things interesting and Shannon keeps them on track. Read more about Shannon and Austin.

May 2014: Will Georgantas
Will GeorgantasWill Georgantas began copyediting 826 Valencia’s student publications in April 2012. After receiving his MFA in fiction writing from Columbia University in 2000, Will became a staff copy editor* at Esquire magazine, then in 2003 cofounded a writing-focused public high school in the South Bronx, the Bronx Academy of Letters. Since 2007, he’s been dividing his time between copyediting books for publishers including Random House, Simon & Schuster, and McSweeney’s, and writing songs and performing with his band, Thunderegg. Read more about Will Georgantas.

April 2014: Darryl Forman
Darryl FormanDarryl Forman has been volunteering at 826 Valencia since she retired from her career as a financial-services writer in 2011. She lives in San Francisco with her adorable dog, Romo, and is working on her second book. Her first book, The Unleavened Truth, published by Untreed Reads Publishing, is a compilation of humorous essays. Darryl enjoys the in-school programs where she works one-on-one with students to help open up their imaginations to enhance their story telling. When not cajoling creativity from students, Darryl likes to walk around her beloved Bernal Heights neighborhood with Romo, cheer for the other Romo at Giants’ games, and challenge authority. Read more about Darryl Forman.

March 2014: Gloria Lenhart
Gloria Lenhart, Volunteer TypistGloria Lenhart says that helping with 826 field trip program is the highlight of her week, but she also has a lot of other things going on. She’s a San Francisco City Guide who gives free tours of North Beach and Financial District. Her website,www.mysfpast.com, provides information on these tours including where to find downtown rooftop gardens and pocket parks called POPOS (Privately Owned Public Open Space). Her memoir, Planet Widow, was published in 2006 by Seal Press in Berkeley and she is currently working on a historical novel that deals with the politics in San Francisco around the time of the 1906 earthquake and fire. Still, she shows up at 826 every Tuesday morning, taking her place behind the keyboard to help shape a bunch of crazy characters and setting dreamed up the young writers into a cohesive story. Read more about Gloria Lenhart.

February 2014: Carmela Marquez
Carmela Marquez
Carmela can often be found in 826 Valencia’s kitchenette, cracking jokes and slicing apples for our After-School Tutoring students. Carmela is also the mother of Osvaldo and Sofia, a former and  a current student of our After-School Tutoring program. Her kids have been enrolled in 826 Valencia’s programs for ten years—almost the entire time we’ve been open! During this time, Carmela has prepared snacks for our students, made frequent runs for food donations on 826’s behalf, and participated in our Parent Leadership and Advisory Board. She’s an invaluable volunteer and we appreciate her immensely. Read more about Carmela Marquez.

January 2014: Melissa van Gelder
MelVOM-vanGelder_Portraitissa van Gelder, a San Francisco native and (somewhat) recent graduate of UCLA, has been volunteering at 826 Valencia since moving back to the City in September of 2013. Through her participation in the Bay-Farer, Straight Up News, fieldtrips, and 826’s brand new after-school program at Buena Vista Horace Mann, Melissa has racked up over seventy hours of literary volunteer-dom. More importantly, though, as a cornerstone of 826’s efforts with the 3rd and 4th graders at BVHM, Melissa has inspired countless stories (read on to discover the secrets of “Melissa Island”), given out hundreds of stickers (not to mention high fives), and played an invaluable role in shaping the experiences of the wacky and wonderful young minds at BVHM.  Read more about Melissa van Gelder.

December 2013: Anthony Severini
APS_03While Anthony Severini has been to France, Italy, and Spain, he is more than the sum of the places he’s seen. In the past year, Anthony has volunteered over 700 hours all over San Francisco. Along with his commitment to 826 Valencia, he’s supported the Stern Grove Festival Association with every single Sunday concert in the 2013 season, helped plant new plants at the St. Mary’s Park Living Library, volunteered at the Saint Cyprian’s Episcopal Church and the Old First Presbyterian Church, and tutored at CoderDojo, an event hosted by GitHub, which teaches elementary-school children how to code. Read more about Anthony Severini.

C's 826 picNovember 2013: Carolyn Schultz
When Carolyn Schultz began After-school tutoring at 826 she quickly mastered the art of finding a fellow tutor who could help students with math homework. Carolyn zoomed in on college essay tutoring since she herself was bribed by her grandfather not to go to college, which he firmly believed turned young women into spinster school teachers. She accepted a red Ford Falcon convertible instead and began her higher education as the youngest executive secretary in NYC around the time the real Mad Men was happening. Read more about Carolyn Schultz.

Illustration by Tim R. himself

Illustration by Tim R. himself

October 2013: Tim R.
Tim, who gives his time to 826 through design, tutoring, Ikea runs, and so much more, spends so much time with us, that it’s hard to imagine 826 without him. Tim helps out however he can, and for his graciousness, we’re honoring him as our Volunteer of the Month. In 2010, Tim R. walked into 826 Valencia’s Pirate Supply Store and asked, “How do I become part of this?” The rest, as they say, is history (or myth, or fibbery, or mocking sarcasm, depending on which minute you ask). He hails from SoCal and has lived, traveled, and studied in colder climes and other far-flung places. He studied design on the East Coast, which helped to forge a certain steel-woolly Woody Allen quality out of a sun-soaked attitude. Read more about Tim R.

September 2013: E. Eastman
E. Eastman is a stylish man, but look deeper and you’ll also find an amazing tutor who wears many hats at 826 Valencia. In just the last year, E. has worked on the Young Authors’ Book Project, tutored for the Young Authors’ Workshop, and led multiple workshops (here’s just one) of his own to impart his writing passions to young people. He is also one of the pioneering volunteers of our brand new Writing Club at Buena Vista Horace Mann. Read more about E.

August 2013: Lucy Kirchner
Lucy has been staying up late with the always amazing, often stirring, and hilarious writing of 826 students since 2007. She has hung doortags, illustrated chapbooks, designed posters, proofread final-hour manuscripts, and even snuck her cat onto a book cover disguised as a monkey. Her most recent work can be spotted in the pages of the collaboratively redesigned 826 Quarterly. Lucy has loved working alongside María and the 826 editors, and while she isn’t seen during daylight hours often, you may catch her slinking in the back door to pick up book manuscripts from time to time. Read more about Lucy.

July 2013: Bear Toffoli
Bear is an avid cookbook reader, a word warrior (i.e. poet), a music junkie, a fromage fanatic, and an all-night dancer. He began volunteering with 826 Valencia in 2011 for the Exploring Words Summer Camp tutoring students in the fine art and craftsmanship of being a wordsmith. He gets the most enjoyment from watching the “a-ha!” moments and seeing students come up with their own creative writing ideas. Read more about Bear.


June 2013: Jody Worthington
Jody Worthington is a graphic designer, a hula hooper, a metal DJ, and a friend to cats. She began volunteering with 826 Valencia in 2008, creating event posters, laying out the Bay-Farer, Straight-Up News, and chapbooks. Jody’s favorite project with 826 has been working with Maria to design the Young Authors’ Book Project for the past four years. She feels lucky and honored to have collaborated with some amazing designers and illustrators, to work with the incredible 826 family, and to see the look of elation on students’ faces as they see their work professionally designed and published for the first time. Read more about Jody.

May 2013: David Brownell
David Brownell began tutoring with our After-School tutoring program in 2005. He became interested in tutoring and working with youth when he saw volunteer caregivers working with children at his daughter’s daycare. A two-time Harvard graduate, a writer, and a copy editor, David loves volunteering with us and is proud to see two of his students going on to college next fall. This father, grandfather, and much beloved staple in the writing lab is an exemplary volunteer. Read more about David.


April 2013: Kim Connor
Dr. Kim Connor is a professor in the School of Management at the University of San Francisco. She is a published author and Associate Editor for the Journal of the American Academy of Religion. Despite a demanding schedule, Kim makes her way to 826 Valencia nearly every Thursday to guide students in the adventures of storytelling. Kim has also tutored students on the Young Author’s Book Project‘s editorial board and consistently supported our fundraising efforts so that we may continue to provide free programming for our students. Read more about Kim.


March 2013: Benilda Taft-Kiewek
Benilda Taft-Kiewek is a longtime San Francisco resident. Born and raised in Mexico by an eccentric, multinational family, as a young woman she came to live in the United States, where she married and raised a family. Her five grown children are working in professions they love, and her five suburban grandchildren love to visit her in San Francisco. Read more about Benilda.