When I noticed the black streaks descending from the tops of the columns on the front porch, I thought there was some minor water damage. But when the team from U.Va. Facilities came, they warned me that we needed to find where the water had come from. They determined the gutters around the balcony had “rusted out” and when they peeled back the trim from the beam above the columns, they found it to be rotten and eaten by termites! Extensive remodeling was necessary to maintain the safety and integrity of our entryway.
Today, the gutters are shiny and new, wood beams and trim installed and painted; our entrance has never looked better. I only wish I could say the same for our bank balance!
This is just an example of the kind of expenses which must be met in order to maintain Madison House – a building that dates to 1975 – as a home away from home for tomorrow’s leaders. If you thought that Madison House doesn’t need your financial support, you would be mistaken. An independent 501(c)(3) non-profit, we receive no direct financial support from the University. Grant dollars are not as plentiful as in years past. Without private contributions, we could not function.
Without Madison House, how would the 3,243 University students who volunteered last year have served the community? What would our Community Partners have done without the 110,000 hours of service provided? And what about the 20,000 community residents impacted by our volunteers? What about them?
Thankfully, Madison House is supported by many dedicated friends and alumni. The new porch was not budgeted – but we’ll manage to pay the bill. But please know how valued and needed the support of our alumni and friends is. As you consider your end-of-year giving, please consider Madison House. We would be very grateful.
Students who don’t speak English as their first language struggle with daily challenges both in and out of school. The ESOL program places U.Va. students in the classroom with these students to help bridge the language gap. The program is not a miracle worker overnight. It demands volunteers who are diligent, patient, and dedicated to helping individual students learn English. Lizzie is one of these volunteers. I met with her to learn more about her experiences as an ESOL volunteer.
Lizzie is a second year hoping to double major in Global Development Studies and Religious Studies (with a minor in Art too!) She became a volunteer her first year and explained that she was drawn to the program due to her love of travel. One thing that struck me was a simple statement: “Americans travel to other places and struggle with the language barrier there. Imagine how hard it is for immigrants to come to the United States and deal with the language barrier every day.” After graduation, Lizzie wants to work for a NGO or join the PeaceCorps.
Lizzie shared the stories of students she has worked with through the ESOL program. One student named John, at the local Charlottesville High School, was incredibly attentive, driven, and wanted to be successful at learning English. Witnessing the daily struggles ESOL students face, Lizzie has grown to admire the teacher she works with this year, Ms. Germino. She expressed the hope to embody Ms. Germino’s commitment to her students.
If you’re interested in joining the ESOL program or learning more, sign-ups for next semester will be available soon. Lizzie shared that her experiences have been eye-opening in understanding first-hand that not everyone has access to resources UVA students do. The program is a great way to facilitate ESOL students with accessing language tools and give back to the Charlottesville community.
On September 24, 2013 representatives from the University of Virginia Health System joined the Madison House Board of Directors to award Madison House a generous grant of $2,500. The grant will help fund Madison House’s student-leadership training program, providing specialized training to enhance student leaders’ ability to manage their programs and stimulate positive change throughout the community.
Geoff Johnson’s story began last year and we’re excited to see the next chapter unfold on November 3rd. He has chosen to combine his two loves of running and community service to make a difference in the world around him.
A 2010 graduate of UVA, he served as a Madison House Program Director for Latino and Migrant Aid and volunteer for Big Siblings. Geoff contacted our staff last summer and said that he wanted to run the New York City Marathon and fundraise in honor of Madison House. Sadly, because of the devastation inflicted by Hurricane Sandy, the race was canceled. But in the truest spirit of service and community, Geoff gave his time to help with the clean-up work for residents of New York City hit by the storm. He then chose to run the Richmond marathon 2 weeks later.
This tenacious young alumnus was undeterred by last year’s race cancellation and instead has chosen to raise the stakes this year and run the New York City Marathon for Madison House and the Badlands Sustainability project. He has shared entertaining updates of his training runs along the way with us ranging from running in St. Petersburg, Russia to running 16 miles from his D.C. apartment to his parent’s home in Maryland.
Geoff’s final challenge to us is that we have: One Week to Choose Your Own Adventure!
“Thank you to everyone who has shown such tremendous support for my running and fundraising these past months. I am sincerely and deeply grateful, and know that Madison House and the Badlands Natural History Association are, as well! For those who would still like to share the love, don’t forget that there’s still time to choose your own adventure and support one of their three amazing causes!“
Madison House Friends and Alumni, let’s gather around one of our own and help Geoff write the last chapter of his story and support his run this week! No matter where we are in the world, let’s cheer Geoff on as he runs on Saturday.
By Yousaf Sajid, Director of Program Development & Engagement
On the evening of October 11th, screams of surprise and joy could be heard all across Charlottesville. That’s because children and volunteers in the Madison House Big Siblings and Bridging the Gap programs received the once in a lifetime opportunity to have tea with a real Disney princess and stars from the Disney on Ice: Princesses and Heroes.
Disney on Ice generously treated 50 pairs of mentees and mentors to a private tea party and provided tickets to the ice show. The night began with Madison House staff directing mentors and mentees through the rain to the secret back entrance of John Paul Jones arena. Once inside, the Disney on Ice organizers gathered everyone to the Disney tea room equipped with snacks, coloring book activities, and of course, plenty of tea! Ice skaters and actors spent time with groups of mentees and their mentors while everyone was anxiously awaiting a special guest to arrive.
A knock was heard at the door and a little sib jumped out of her chair and raced for the door knob. When she pulled the door open, Princess Belle emerged. Cheers and applause erupted in the tea house. Pairs of little sibs and their mentors giddily waited in line to greet Belle and take a picture with her. The children were ecstatic to meet Belle and at times it seemed that the volunteers were even more excited to meet a princess!
The most special moment of the night was seeing the faces on all of the little sibs and mentees when Belle walked into the tea room. The element of surprise cultivated a sense of joy and wonder for little sibs and mentees. In that moment the children felt that anything was possible and that anything and everything positive could happen in their lives; including getting the chance to have tea with a Disney princess!
by Jennifer Walker, Director of Programs
Madison House has gotten off to a great start! Program Directors and staff members enthusiastically handed out a record 3,500 Madison House flyers at the Activities Fair. Registration opened and many programs have quickly filled up, while others are still recruiting to fill spots. Madison House leaders have put in a lot of time these first few weeks. The Head Program Directors enjoyed a Fall leadership retreat in August where they planned for their programs for the year, learned techniques for overseeing PDs and volunteers, and bonded with their fellow HPDs. The Program Directors have hit the ground running by participating in the Program Director Summit, actively recruiting at the Madison House fair and general Activities Fair, attending Program Advisory Meetings (PAMs), and getting their volunteers signed up! As a reward, Madison House held an ice cream social catered by Arch’s for MH Student Leaders!
I came on board as the new Executive Director just as the school year was starting. So – like the First Years arriving on Grounds a bit overwhelmed by everything new – I am greatly excited by what’s ahead.
Although I’ve been on Rugby Road just a few weeks, here’s what I know so far:
1. A terrific team had been assembled by Elizabeth and I am indebted to her for bringing together such a dedicated and capable staff: Jennifer leading Programs; Yousaf handling alumni council, grants and some programs; Anna managing the office; Julie directing our critical Annual Fund and Ben wearing many hats in addition to his primary role in communications. They have all been very welcoming and I am grateful. (Also grateful for our latest wonderful addition, Americorps VISTA participant Irteza Binte-Farid, a recent Stanford grad and Charlottesville native who will assist with mentoring programs this year.)
2. The Head Program Directors (HPDs) and Program Directors (PDs) are enthusiastic and committed. I can attest that these leaders are phenomenal examples of what Madison House is all about: service and leadership. They walk the walk and talk the talk. Excitement is contagious and volunteer recruits to the 19 different service programs are many. Training has commenced and volunteering begins next week.
In sum, Madison House is on track as it begins its 44th year. If you are an alum, please know that we will endeavor always to maintain the standard of excellence you embodied. If you are a friend, be assured our commitment to the community and its citizens is unwavering.
And please know you have an open invitation to visit 170 Rugby Road any time. We’d be delighted to see you.
When I began my 10th year on staff at Madison House this fall, I didn’t know it would be my last. I was doing a lot of reminiscing about the thousands of PDs whom I had met, the ten cohorts of Head PDs I had worked with, the decade’s worth of Cavaliers Care t-shirts I own, the dozen or more Summits I had helped with—especially the ones in the fall, with Mel’s Café mac and cheese! The first time I sat down to write a post for our blog this fall, it was with anticipation of a great 10th year on staff, and with reflection about the lessons I have learned from Madison House since I became a volunteer back in the fall of 1995. So many great lessons, so many memories.
As I sit here today, writing my last blog post of the year—with tears welling up, as they always do—I share with myself a very important lesson that we have taught Madison House students for years: take your experiences with you wherever you go, and become an engaged part of your new community. It’s even the last part of the Madison House mission statement, “to promote lifelong volunteer service.” And so it’s time for me to do the same—and I know that my connection to Madison House will be lifelong.
I will start a new chapter next month in Richmond, Virginia. I will be in a job where I will utilize the skills and experiences that Madison House has given me, working with a great organization. And I will be getting married this fall and starting a whole new adventure with my best friend.
When I leave my role at Madison House this summer, I will take with me incredible relationships that I have developed over the years with my fellow staff members, former students, community partners, and friends. Working here has shown me how important relationships are, and how that is truly the difference between a positive volunteer experience and a mediocre one. We always want the best for our students and our partners, and I will always maintain that Madison House is the best at managing, training, and motivating its volunteers.
To those of you who have been a part of my Madison House era, THANK YOU for everything over the years. I will remain a loyal alumna, donor and friend. And I hope you will too! Please keep supporting Madison House with your financial contributions, stop by and see the staff and students in action, and get involved as alumni through the regional efforts of our Alumni Council.
I will miss this place so much, but I know that Madison House will always be a home.
You can contact Elizabeth Bass at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gaurav Jagani and Chirag Patel both graduated from the University of Virginia this weekend, but they’re staying in town for a few weeks to finish a commitment that has spanned their time at the University. Along with medical student Nirav Patel, Gaurav and Chirag coach a U-10 soccer team called C27 with SOCA – Soccer Organization of Charlottesville Albemarle. They’ve consistently made this team a priority, returning for games during breaks and attending tournaments – even when they landed on exam week.
“A couple of my friends were in the SOCA program before I came in,” says Gaurav. “I’d go to their games and practices and see how much fun they were having. I knew I wanted to do this throughout my duration here. That’s how I became involved with Madison House.” Chirag’s story is similar. He cites watching Gaurav force himself to wake up for Saturday games as part of what sparked his interest. Neither Gaurav nor Chirag were avid soccer players. Chirag played lacrosse in high school, and some middle school soccer, but their enthusiasm and dedication to their team has made a tremendous impact – an impact noted by parents and opposing coaches.
“The C27 team – centered on the Johnson Elementary School neighborhood – has presented these young men with the distinct challenge of knitting together boys (and in one recent season, also a girl) from extremely diverse and in some cases severely disadvantaged backgrounds,” said Russell Miller, one of the C27 parents. “Their players have included the children of recent immigrants from Latin America, Africa, South-East Asia, China and Iraq. Often these players’ parents speak very little English, requiring the coaches and players to navigate significant cultural and language barriers to communicate on simple issues like practice schedules and game-times. A number of the players – no matter their background – have difficulties with attention and behavior. Throughout all of this these coaches have been gentle but disciplined with their players.”
“If I didn’t coach my own kids, I would go out of my way to have these three coach them,” said Doug Trout, an opposing coach. “I was impressed by them the very first time I met them and coached against them. They don’t take things too seriously and yet promote great sportsmanship and camaraderie. Their teams are always really good. They know soccer but that’s not what makes them great. Their congeniality, maturity, and approach not just to soccer but to life are exceptional.”
The guys are proud of the growth they’ve seen in their team. “The way we approach practices is that we practice one individual skill at each practice – not to overwhelm them,” says Gaurav. “During the games we’re just making substitutions now. We could sit on the other sideline and just watch them play and they could handle themselves. They’re that disciplined and mature.”
Coaching the team has also been a learning experience for them. “It definitely showed me another part of Charlottesville,” said Chirag. “We have a player we’ve had for the past two years. He was six when he started with us. He was really quiet, but we’ve watched him grow up. He’s still one of the youngest players on the team, but he’s one of the best, and he has a bigger mouth!”
“I’ve learned patience,” says Gaurav. “I wouldn’t trade my experience for the world. In the end that is what matters, the skills you develop and the relationships you make with kids and parents.”
As coaches Gaurav, Chirag, and Nirav’s focus has been on their player’s attitudes, but the team has also done well. C27 was undefeated going into this weekend’s regular season finale.
I heard about Madison House before I even came to UVA. I had two older cousins, Taylor and Hunter, who went to UVA, and when they were trying to sell me on coming to this school, they talked to me about Madison House. Taylor was a Recreational Therapy volunteer who helped kids swim who had physical disabilities. Hunter was a Big Sibling. Every time he comes back in town to visit, he calls his Little Sibling and they make time to hang out. They are still close and regularly keep in touch. My cousins’ stories, and the fact that Madison House was a major part of their college experience, speaks volumes about the importance of Madison House in the lives of UVA students and Charlottesville residents.
Madison House has been a part of my life since the first few weeks of my first year. Amidst the craziness of the Activities Fair, I took refuge in the smiling and welcoming faces at the Madison House table. After perusing through the 19 different program areas, I signed up for the Holiday Sharing program. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, Holiday Sharing is a program that works with the Salvation Army and pledges to find sponsors and donors to support over 100 local families during the holiday season. After all the hard work that we do during the fall semester to recruit sponsors and solicit donations, we have Distribution Day. It’s one day during December where we invite all 100 families to Madison House to pick up their food and gifts, complete with cookie decorating, a cappella serenades, and Santa himself. Holiday Sharing became something more than a weekly obligation. I’ve gotten to know some incredible people—fellow passionate volunteers, the Madison House staff, and most importantly, members of the greater Charlottesville community. I’ve seen little kids sit on Santa’s lap and read their hand written letters to him out loud. I’ve heard a mother cry on the phone because we simply asked her if she wanted any presents of her own. I’ve watched in awe as hundreds of people walk through Madison House’s door to deliver food and gifts, just to make a stranger’s holiday season a little brighter. Throughout my four years, I have been a part of recruiting over 400 sponsors for over 400 local families and I am consistently amazed by everyone’s generosity. It is a privilege to see the Charlottesville community come together to support one another. Each year, I’m reminded of the true spirit of giving and the pure joy that the season can bring.
Through my time at Madison House, I have had the opportunity to meet and work with some of the most amazing mentors and leaders, specifically through the Madison House staff. Elizabeth, who always makes time to listen to me, even if she’s way too busy with her own work. Yousaf, who bought the Holiday Sharing PDs snacks from Trader Joes to give us energy when we stayed up until 2 am the night before Distribution Day. Jennifer, whose energy, costumes, and hilarious videos inspire volunteers on a daily basis. Anna, who always greets me genuinely every time I walk into Madison House. Julie, who took the time out of her busy schedule to work with the Holiday Sharing team to give us better ways to reach out to local businesses to ask for donations. Ben, who I’ve worked with since first year on Madison House communications and who is always willing to listen to my theories about life. The people who make Madison House run on a daily basis are some of the best you’ll ever meet and it would not be the same without them.
So many people talk about the issue of the UVA Bubble. When you’re on Grounds as a student, it can start to feel pretty insular and the distance between UVA students and Charlottesville residents seems vast. But Madison House is breaking the UVA Bubble every day. Every week, we send thousands of students out into the Charlottesville community to not just provide a service, but to form relationships. It’s the third year that spends time playing checkers with her grandparent in a nursing home through the Adopt-a-Grandparent program. Or the first year that wakes up early on a Friday morning to volunteer at a pre-school. Or the second year that coaches a middle school basketball team so he can share his love of sports with others. Or the fourth year that’s worked with the same young boy in Bridging the Gap for three years and now regularly eats meals with his family. It’s true stories like these that make Madison House so special. Madison House creates opportunities for students to learn from others outside of the classroom and off of Grounds—their experiences at Madison House help them to learn about compassion, about dedication, about leadership, and about themselves.
Words cannot fully express the impact that Madison House has had on my time at UVA. I had my first leadership experience at Madison House as a Program Director for Holiday Sharing. I learned about Communications from Ben, who gave me my first writing gig on the Madison House blog and who taught me about bringing Madison House into the world of social media. And, as a student, I had the phenomenal opportunity to serve on the Board of Directors of a non-profit. There are not many people my age that can have that experience, and it had a formative impact on my development and awareness as a volunteer and as a leader. This is really a speech of gratitude—thank you to the staff, the Board, the fellow PDs, the volunteers, and especially, our generous donors. Without you, none of these things would have been possible. Thank you so much to those people that have made my four years here, and for many other students like me, so meaningful.