By: Dana Doll and Lauren Rahman Thompson
An Update from Our Co-Founder, Dana:
As I write this to all of you, members of the Collective, it feels more like a letter than a blog post. It feels that way because this Collective is a family in ways I never anticipated it would be when this idea was first born. And in the same way you write to family to tell them news, I’m writing to you to let you know that at the end of the year I will be stepping out of my role as Executive Director and making room for other leaders. I’ll be taking a position as Program Director for a family foundation focused on East Africa, the place where my passion for working with refugees began.
Any kind of transition I’ve gone through tends to make me reflective and this season is no exception.
One of my favorite (and most hilarious) reflections is remembering what Treetops Collective was when it was just me. While I was dreaming up ideas of what might be Treetops someday, I started small, with something that felt like a glorified hobby.
I was attempting to make baby clothes in partnership with refugee women who were sewing out of their homes. I had no idea what I was doing and most of my ideas did not turn out well. However, this was not wasted energy because while selling them to kind strangers at the UICA gift show, I met my co-founder, Tarah Carnahan. She was quite pregnant and had a two-year-old in tow and I saw her eyes light up when she read the tag and saw the mission behind my feeble attempts at a clothing line. Naturally, I took her interest as an invitation to stalk her just a little bit and see if she’d join me on this mission. A potentially faulty pair of baby pants and a sheepish Facebook message later, Tarah and I were dreaming together.
Since then, Tarah has created the most amazing products, launched seasonal lines, employed women with diverse skill-sets, and engaged exponentially more customers in this story of welcoming than I ever could have. She’s been doing all of this while raising two little boys and adopting a teenage daughter from China this year––this vision and mission have always been inside of her, and by God’s grace, we met each other at the right time.
I could tell this story about so many members of this Collective. It’s a story of individuals being inspired by the mission and seeing how their gifts could make our feeble beginnings exponentially better.
Lauren joined the team early on, bringing order to our chaos and unofficially became our team counselor. Shadia and Sylvia have brought depth, perspective, and incredible compassion to our work with women and teen girls. Abby has created needed structure and injected new energy into our fundraising. Nadia has brought creative talent and taught us gratitude. Siobhan has brought foresight, a love of justice, and thorough support for volunteers. Khara has helped us build and track our finances in ways few nonprofits our size achieve. Jamie has brought a powerful voice and work ethic to our storytelling.
These are the stories of the members of our team, but there are so many others beyond our team that have made this incredible growth happen.
I didn’t think it was possible to find this amazing team and make our home in a beautiful building on South Division. I never thought that each of our first three annual celebrations would gather more than 300 people. Listening to the speeches made by women and teen girls at our last workshops of this year’s cohort left my heart dripping with gratitude and in awe over what’s possible when we all bring our gifts to the table.
One person in particular who is once again bringing her gifts to a current season at Treetops is Lauren Rahman Thompson. In August of 2017, Tarah and I were searching for someone to help two co-founders grow a seedling of an organization into a thriving community and as she walked out of that interview we knew we’d found just the woman.
As I transition to other more informal ways of supporting Treetops’ mission by being a monthly giver and forever advocate of the work, Lauren is stepping up to lead Treetops as Interim Executive Director. And I want you to hear directly what that means to her.
A Word from the Interim Executive Director, Lauren:
I sometimes talk about particular moments as a time of settling in, putting down deeper roots, or finding center, but something that’s captured my attention lately is that even in times that seem like steadying seasons there’s still change happening. Every season is a season of change, the question is what type.
Change is not always an uprooting, sometimes it’s a shifting and settling in, or an expanding and stepping forward. What may at first glance look like the frightening unknown, is actually just a movement into maturity and opportunity. That’s what many seasons at Treetops have felt like, a time of change to prepare for even more possibility and goodness.
That’s not to say those seasons were without their human struggles and a portion of anxiety; but every time a season of change made me feel uncertain, this larger community reminded me that the good work of welcoming is not done by this core team alone, but by all of us.
When we needed cross-cultural partners for a cohort of New American women and girls, volunteers signed up and showed up. When we launched a new product, baskets woven by program member Nyamok’s skilled hands, customers came and purchased with purpose. When we needed financial support to launch a redesigned Sister Circles program, givers generously stepped in. When we wanted to include a matched savings component as part of Sister Circles, a giver sponsored a one-to-one match of money the women worked to save. When we hosted workshops and needed to provide transportation and childcare, volunteers sacrificed their weekends and evenings to ensure New Americans could be together in a place where they feel they belong.
When I first joined the Collective as a Treetops employee over two and a half years ago, I was awestruck by this movement. And since then it’s always been clear that this work is not just the dream of a few or the efforts of our team, it’s always been a mission driven by a whole Collective. The core team listed on our website are passionate, talented, hard-working women, but this work is so much bigger than us. Our role is simply to be activators of a larger community––of you and people like you who know that we all belong, we all need each other, and no one should be lonely.
In this season of transition for our core team, I’m grateful that each member of the Collective will be able to see that this work doesn’t hinge on just a few individuals, but is cultivated by an entire community. So whether you’re a New American woman, a monthly giver, a cross-cultural partner, a customer, a volunteer, a New American maker, a generous supporter, a board or committee member––you are Treetops Collective. Together this Collective will continue to change our community and ensure that no neighbor feels alone.
Connect with Lauren: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tell Dana Congrats: email@example.com