by Joan Riley Jager* –
Just after I graduated from college at age forty, I found a note posted in the public library about a support group for adults with ADHD. I’d just read You Mean I’m Not Lazy, Crazy or Stupid by Peggy Ramundo and Kate Kelly. Maybe ADHD was one of the reasons it had taken 18 years to finish my degree!
I thought I’d look into the group. Within months, I’d begun volunteering for mailing parties and had been drafted to serve on the board of directors. Every support group meeting was a new opportunity for learning, and each volunteer effort became a time for sharing stories. I’d found a refuge where my talents were appreciated and my problems understood. I was not only getting better, I finally belonged.
Cynthia Hammer, MSW, founded the first support group in Tacoma, WA, in 1993. Her organization was established a year later as the nonprofit ADDult Support of Washington. Cynthia became the unpaid director and fearless leader. She and other professionals she approached, contributed articles for the ADDult ADD Reader. In 1995, we started a quarterly newsletter, ADDult ADDvice, packaged it with the Adult ADD Reader and a growing lending library of books, tapes and videos and started selling memberships in ADDult Support of Washington.
We began hosting public talks, professional workshops for treatment providers and teachers, one-day workshops for parents and others on work and relationship issues for adults. Many of our events relied on presenters speaking for gratis or at a discounted rate. For many years, all promotion, preparation and hosting duties relied on volunteers and board members.
2002 was a banner year. We merged with the Seattle ADHD Support Group and changed our name to ADD Resources to reflect expanding our services to parents. The following year we opened an office, hired staff and hosted our first annual conference. I worked part-time in the office, taking phone calls and meeting visitors looking for answers. A few of these visitors became vital volunteers. We added three support groups, two of them for parents, and each with their own lending library.
2004 connected us to a wider audience with the advent of our website and the National Providers Directory. Cynthia wrote a monthly eNews. Just notes really, but always packed with new sources of information she’d found online. To provide support further afield, Cynthia approached presenters to provide free monthly podcasts. We soon added another each month. Over 100 are now saved in the archives.
Cynthia retired in 2008. I left at the same time. Francinne Lawrence replaced Cynthia as Executive Director with Kathy Engle as the office manager. Kathy took over the reins as executive director a year later and managed the organization for three years.
I returned to work as a volunteer working with Kathy. The office was getting busier with more calls for help from further away. Making connections among the growing number of providers and services for ADHD showed how far the field had grown since the organization began.
We opened an online bookstore which provided additional funding. Eventually the online bookstore was closed as we couldn’t compete with Amazon’s pricing. Events were getting more professional. They still depended on the kindness of local providers, board members and volunteers to provide hosting duties with the event facility providing basic services.
David Pomeroy, MD
Kathy and David Pomeroy, MD, with other members of board, updated The ADHD Reader in 2011, adding new articles with current information about both children and adults. Several new support groups were started. We owe those who have served faithfully as facilitators a debt of gratitude.
Kathy Engle’s departure was difficult for the organization. The duties of the executive director of a nonprofit organization involve combining the support and efforts of many people, inspiring them to provide services that encourage and benefit many. Being the director is not an easy task.
For nine months, Steve Curry, a member of the board of directors, served as the interim director, in addition to his full-time job. Brandon Koch worked part-time and we carried on as best we could. Thanks to many hours of overtime, Steve pulled off the planned conference.
We switched to using email instead of snail mail and the answering machine instead of a live person to cover the hours when no one was in the office. The regular bookstore and the lending library were closed and webinars and podcasts were put on hold.
A former intern, Laura del Ragno, took over in early 2013 on a part-time basis with little time to plan, promote and host a workshop on relationships. With the loss of our Tacoma office space to another tenant, Pete Terlaak, a member of the board of directors, subleased his Seattle office to us so we had a place to go. The aging software of the website created increasing problems with access to the site. When Laura left later in 2013, Brandon continued on, working with an interim office manager and occasional volunteers.
Late in 2013, Meg McDonald became the executive director. She was off and running with a steep learning curve to recreate the infrastructure, reconnect with supporters, redesign the website, add to the toolkits of the facilitators, recruit volunteers, raise funds and bring renewed vitality to the board of directors.
Note: Picture at the top is of Joan Jager, Meg McDonald and Brandon Rowe at the April 2015 meeting.
I retired in 2013. I still go to support group meetings every month and now curate a Pinterest page with over 6,000 pins about ADHD and related topics. Come visit.
Joan Jager’s Pinterest Page