Letter from the National President Evelyn B. Wofford, Fall 2020
Thoughts on the Times
In the article that I wrote for the 2020 summer issue of this magazine, I alluded to the difficult times in which we are living and indicated that my survival these past five months has depended on the ability to focus on day-to-day, month-to-month successes. I have focused on the positives because there is no point in doing otherwise. The positives that I share today have surfaced fairly randomly.
Very recently, I had the privilege of attending a joint meeting of the Diablo-Alameda and Santa Clara County, California, branches, via Zoom. Information concerning this meeting is highlighted elsewhere in the magazine, but I want to emphasize for you the daring step that these two branches took to discuss with two of their members — both women of color and one an immigrant — the subject of racism. A week after the meeting, Julie Cohn, the Zoom host and moderator, shared with me in a letter her feelings and her understanding of what had occurred. I cite for you some of what she said:
“We took a leap of faith to open an envelope that could have been shut tight with a strong, forbidding glue. The stage was set for what was to become an evening of deep soul-searching and compassionate listening. What was so revealing and so difficult to share and to hear were the heart-wrenching stories of all who witnessed and experienced prejudice firsthand in America. Not a single person raised during the time of segregation was barred from the effects, no matter the skin color. However, there was a clear understanding that those with skin color other than white have endured the biggest and most barbaric brunt of racism. We are here as sisters standing solidly, and united to show up and speak up when and where it is needed.”
This meeting was a definite positive to be celebrated.
A second positive experience was a conversation I was engaged in with a young lady who has been living at Pen Arts since just before the pandemic struck. Paula Kaufman is a teacher, writer, and painter who will at some point become a Pen Woman. We were discussing how COVID-19 and the protests that have occurred since May have converged on this city and how this convergence has affected not only those of us who are living at Pen Arts but everyone in the city. I asked her if she would write down some of what we had discussed so that I could share with the readers of our magazine exactly how she as a young person has responded to these unsettling times and her reflections on the situation.
The following is some of what she wrote:
“Pandemic means ‘pertaining to all people.’ Pan, from the word all, and demos, meaning people. For the first time, we are face-to-face with ourselves and each other over this shared calamity. Both isolated and connected at once.
“During this time I have changed in three ways:
1. Health. I am bravely facing health challenges and seeking help from others, instead of attempting the impossible alone.
2. Empathy. It took a pandemic for me to appreciate essential workers. Now, I thank them all each day. I tell every postal worker I see, ‘I appreciate you.’ Grocery store clerks. Someone in scrubs. ‘Thank you for being an essential worker.’ I carry extra unopened healthy, soft, easily chewable foods in my backpack wherever I go. I give them to houseless people I meet.
3. Antiracism. This is a term I learned this winter. I read that it is not enough to ‘not be racist.’ This is passive. Conversely, the term anti-racist is active. It is applying a true action to a thought and creating real change. It is connecting our inside thoughts with an outward vision.
“As we move forward, we must become comfortable with the uncomfortable. We must be willing to change. We must be welcoming wherever we are. Our groups must reflect the entire arts community. We must have diversity of races and ages.
“After times of trauma, there is a long healing process, and then, if we are lucky, a moment of grace. My hope is that we will rise through shared trauma with a common shared vision. We can only arrive there together.”
From Washington, D. C., to California, from the young to the not so young, the message is the same. Ironically even some of the same words have been used. The message speaks for itself. From the inception of this organization Pen Women have been in the forefront of advocacy for themselves and for others. May this heritage continue. Be safe; be strong; be united.
Letter from the National President Evelyn Wofford, Summer 2020
Two years ago, as I wrote the first article of my new administration, I was bemoaning the fact that our lives can become cluttered and overrun with impediments, just like gardens can be cluttered with debris and weeds. As I again write the first article of a new administration, I am confronted by a reality unlike any that we, as a world, have seen before, a world filled with major impediments — cluttered with societal debris of every ilk.
What to do? How to react? Where to start? I am a simple person with simple ideas. My survival depends on my ability to take one day at a time. Pull one weed, then another. At the end of the day, celebrate small successes. Successes make me feel better about unsettling circumstances, so that is where I am starting today. I am reflecting on the many successes that the League has achieved over the past two years.
Early in my past administration, a transformation began to take place in the large basement space that for many years held the office of a D.C. architect. Thanks to the hard work of local artist and handyman extraordinaire Timoteo Murphy, by September 2018 that space had opened to the public for the Dupont Circle First Friday Art Walk as the Pen Arts Gallery.
Paintings and photographs were taken from storage and from some of the walls on the second and third floors of Pen Arts and displayed in the new gallery space. In the months that followed, the gallery evolved to include art acquired from Pen Women artists and other artists in the D.C. area, as well as live musical performances and workshops on writing, art, and healthy living, to name a few.
Attendance grew with each First Friday event. During the League’s second participation in the Art All Night – DC program, the clicker counted over 650 people visiting the gallery.
The transformation of the space has continued with the replacement of the legacy lighting with professional gallery lighting, installed by Dean Griffin, husband of our national art chair, Mary Lou.
The gallery is not the only part of the building that has been an attraction. Our beautiful parlor, with its refurbished grand piano, has hosted numerous, well-attended concerts, from classical to jazz and contemporary, as well as lectures on a myriad of topics.
Even during the pandemic, Pen Arts has provided a setting for the live streaming of performances by local artists, following all the necessary and rigid COVID-19 protocols imposed by the D.C. government. By the time that you read this article, it is the hope of the national board that the Biennial art show will have been hung, judged, and opened to the public following new protocols for public viewing.
Another of the successes that has been particularly gratifying is the number of new members who have joined NLAPW during the last two years. Third vice president Bev Goldie, working as membership chair, and the League’s credential chairs have been very diligent in responding to branch questions and in processing applications. Between May 1, 2018, and May 1, 2020, 220 new members have become a part of our wonderful organization.
As I have noted earlier, branches that are active in their communities and have outreach and recruitment programs seem to be the branches that are attracting significant numbers of members to the League. We also have had a number of new members-at-large joining the organization.
It goes without saying that the McGrath Family Trust donation of $25,000 to the League, which allowed us to raise matching funds, was extremely successful. League members and nonmembers donated $25,241.98 in matching funds, resulting in a $50,241.98 addition to League income during this two-year period. As per stipulations in the board’s long-range plan, some of these funds have been used to purchase sound equipment for the Pen Arts building to enhance the quality of future performances.
Perhaps the biggest success of all is that the Council of the District of Columbia has passed D.C. Act 23-257, which became D.C. Law 23-89 on May 6, 2020, providing real property tax relief to the National League of American Pen Women, Inc. for its property located at 1300 17th Street NW for as long as the League is the owner and operator of the property, and the property is used for the purposes and activities of NLAPW. (See the Act document.)
This tax exemption is retroactive to Oct. 1, 2016. Many administrations of the League have attempted to gain this type of tax relief. This administration has worked diligently and arduously for 20 months in its attempt. I am terrifically proud of this accomplishment.
Many other successes could have been stated, but these are perhaps the most salient. In an attempt to “accentuate the positive,” I have chosen not to address the disappointments and frustrations of the last five months, not the least of which has been the postponement of our 50th Biennial for the second time due to COVID-19.
Even this impediment for our board members and Biennial Committee has been offset by a success in that we have been able to renegotiate the contract with The Darcy hotel for April 30 to May 3, 2021, and almost all of the registrants have indicated a willingness to roll over their registration fee and attend the Biennial at that time. Our speakers and workshop presenters are arranging to be present as well. What gratification for all the hard work of the Biennial Committee and its chair, Sheila Byrnes!
We all need the fellowship and renewal that our biennials afford, and I am extremely glad that we have not had to cancel this event.
How am I going to react to these extraordinarily trying times? By tackling one weed at a time and celebrating the success of the extrication.
Letter from the National President Evelyn B. Wofford, Spring 2020
For Everything, There Is a Season
In the fall issue of this magazine, you learned of the extreme effort that was being made with the D. C. Council to obtain relief from the annual property taxes that have been imposed on the National League of American Pen Women, Inc. for its headquarters building and the land on which it is located.
It is with a heart full of gratitude for open minds and sympathetic/empathetic listeners who understood and identified with our cause that I share with you the wonderful news: The D. C. Council has passed, and Mayor Muriel Bowser has signed, a bill providing real-property tax relief for our headquarters building and grounds for as long as the League owns and operates the property in accordance with its mission.
The bill passed its final reading with a unanimous vote on March 3, and the mayor signed it on March 17. It is retroactive to October 1, 2016. It has taken 18 months of effort and determination, but with the help of a wonderful D. C. attorney, Kevin Stogner, the effort has had a positive ending. Your president is ecstatic!
By the time that you are reading this, our 50th Biennial will have been postponed from its original April 24 through 26 dates to the new dates of June 26 through 28. June is a beautiful month in D.C., and the board is hoping beyond hope that by mid June, the coronavirus mandates will have been lifted.
The Darcy has been wonderful in working with the League to accommodate the postponement. The dates work well for members of the board also, since that will be the month for its regular meeting. Thank you for your understanding of the circumstances in which we have been working. We are all going through unprecedented and very trying times, but as always, positive attitudes are key. If you have not already done so, please make your plans to attend this important 50th Biennial of our League.
On a very sad note, it is with deep regret that I must report that our very dear and longtime advocate and benefactor, James McGrath, died on March 3 from complications resulting from a massive heart attack and bypass surgery. His contributions to and on behalf of the League were many, and he is already sorely missed. It upsets me very much that he did not live long enough to know that the League has finally obtained the tax relief that he had sought on our behalf for many years. I am glad that he knew that we had exceeded the $25,000 grant match undertaken when we received the funds from the McGrath Family Trust in honor of Angeline Nanni. He was a true friend to NLAPW and to me.
On a note that iterates the lasting memorial of Jim, the director of First Friday Dupont has contacted me with a request to live stream a piano performance from our beautiful parlor on the first Friday in April. Because of the COVID-19 restrictions on gatherings of more than five people and the need for social distancing, First Friday cannot take place as usual. Live streaming has become a means of ameliorating social isolation, and because of our wonderfully restored piano, we are able to connect with Jim’s beloved Dupont Circle community in a unique and most meaningful way.
Our lives today may be totally out of kilter, but we can remain positive in our attitudes and in our relationships with others. No matter our personal, political, or religious perspectives, we are all in this together. The League’s motto, “All for One and One For All,” remains relevant and strong. Stay safe.
Today is a beautiful day. I think I will go pull up a few weeds.
Letter from the National President Evelyn B. Wofford, Winter 2020
This and That, Continued
As I am writing this, it is November and Thanksgiving is a week away. It has been very cold in D.C., but as yet it has not snowed. How grateful I am for that fact!
Mind you, I really like a nice snow event at my home in Mississippi. The landscape is covered in white, and a perfect stillness dominates the woods surrounding the house. It is beautiful and peaceful. Not so in D.C.
Activity stops because D.C. can’t handle snow any better than the state of Mississippi can but the angst caused by this shutdown is palpable. Citizens want to be out and about. Snow-covered streets rapidly become icy masses of slush as vehicles insist on plowing through the serene landscape. Sidewalks suffer a similar fate as pedestrians plow through as well with remarkable determination. But I digress. It is cold and it has not snowed — yet.
Right now, I have very pleasant memories and renewed energy from my recent visit to Daytona Beach, Florida, where I attended the biennial conference of the Florida State Association of NLAPW. The conference was beautifully organized and featured very interesting and exciting workshops and programs. At least one of the presentations is making its way to the National Biennial in April in D.C.
It was such a pleasure to renew acquaintances with Florida Pen Women whom I have met during my five years on the national board and to make acquaintances with many more enthusiastic and talented Florida Pen Women. The art show was among the best I have ever attended.
While in Florida, I shared a number of positives from National. I am very glad to report that we have exceeded our $25,000 matching fund goal. To date, we have received $25,241.98. Board of Directors members contributed more than $10,000. Thank you to everyone who contributed to this major fundraising effort. The League has already begun to address some of the targeted areas for use of these funds.
Since May 1, 2018, we have gained 210 new members and are receiving new applications regularly. We are also continuing to renew memberships that have lapsed. For the first time in a very long time, we are gaining more members than we are losing. A big shoutout to all the branches and individuals who are responsible for this increase. It seems that branches that are an integral and active part of their community are the branches that are growing.
The Pen Arts Building continues to host events for other nonprofits, community organizations, and individuals. We even had a baby shower in October. How very special that was!
First Friday Art walks are well attended, and Art All Night-DC attracted over 650 participants this year. Several musical events are on the schedule for December and January. Our national headquarters wants very much to be an active participant in our neighborhood.
There has been no word yet on the appeal for a legislative property tax abatement. It appears that it will be January before any decision is made, and more visits to the John A. Wilson Building (D.C. city hall) may be necessary. The Board of Directors is standing firm with the president in this pursuit. We are determined! It is my hope that the 50th Biennial will be a celebration not only of the League’s longevity, but its relief from an oppressive tax burden as well.
Please take note of all the information about the Biennial that is published in this issue of our magazine. The Biennial chair and her committee have been working to make this 50th a very special occasion. I encourage each of you to make every effort to attend.
I also encourage you to cast your affirmative vote for the candidates running for office in 2020-‘22 and for the important amendment to our bylaws. I thank the nominating committee for their work in selecting nominees for these elected positions.
In closing, I would like to refer again to the Florida State Conference. The theme was “Sands of Time: Preserving the Past; Moving to the Future.” Isn’t that what this League should always be about?
Letter from the National President Evelyn B. Wofford, Fall 2019
This and That
Well, here we go again. I can hardly believe that by the time you receive this magazine, I will have survived (hopefully) my second insufferably hot and humid D.C. summer.
To all the people who have asked, “How in the world are you handling the heat?” My response is, “I am from Mississippi, and while I dislike the heat almost as much as I dislike weeds, I certainly am no stranger to it.”
In fact, in thinking about life in Mississippi, I have realized that my experiences there have had a tremendous impact on my ability to perform all the tasks that have fallen to me this past year. I will mention one task in particular simply because it has been all consuming since February.
Last fall, I shared with you the unbelievable increase in the League’s property tax bill and mentioned that the action taken by the taxing authority was being challenged on several levels. Little did I know at the time just how challenging the challenges would become.
Your president decided that she would tackle the problem by seeking a legislative tax abatement from the D.C. Council, an administrative tax abatement from the D.C. Office of Tax and Revenue, or both. To this end, she has prepared and submitted reams of documents to both entities. Copies of the materials are 5 inches thick. She has testified at five hearings of committees central to the tax issue, met with nine council members or their staff (there are 13 council members) and with six members of the Office of Tax and Revenue, and engaged in numerous conversations with the deputy chief financial officer.
Additionally, she has met with numerous Dupont Circle neighborhood associations to solicit support for the tax abatement. She has at least two more appointments to meet with council members and one more hearing before a decision is rendered. The effort has been delayed by the two-month summer recess that the council takes from the middle of July until the middle of September, and September will mark the one-year anniversary of this undertaking.
Back to my Mississippi experience. I was alderperson-at-large and vice mayor of the City of Drew for 12 years. Drew is a very small town, but “politics” is “politics” regardless of the size of the government. I was also a school district administrator for more years than I care to admit. Politics knows no boundaries.
Without all of those years of experience in government and administration and without the aid of a very knowledgeable D.C. attorney with a background in D.C. government, I would not have been able to address this major problem for our League. No one can know how the issue will be resolved, but a valiant effort has been and is being made for a positive resolution.
In other matters, Pen Arts continues to host area artists in the Gallery and in the salon. On April 5, pianist and vocalist Amy Bormet collaborated with internationally acclaimed saxophonist Biggie Vinkeloe to please visitors at the First Friday event. D.C. violinist Kimberly Galva and pianist Anton Martinez performed the April 27 evening concert following the April Board of Directors meeting; and our wonderful composer, pianist, and vocalist Kathy Pate performed the June 22 evening board concert. The Gallery will again participate in the September Art All Night D.C. program that was so well attended last year.
Our beautiful building also has had numerous visitors during the summer months. We open Pen Arts each weekday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. for tourists and neighbors to experience our art and architecture, and all who come in are amazed and appreciative.
The Board of Directors members continue to work diligently in their respective positions and all are in regular attendance at the League’s board meetings. The art, letters, and music chairs are particularly busy right now with all the competitions that are open or soon will be. Please take advantage of the Vinnie Ream and the Biennial competitions. We have some new things happening this year.
Our third vice president has had a busy year as well, as she has shouldered the responsibility of a membership chair. In fact, board members are all performing double or triple duties this year, and we still do not have a publications chair. This crisis in leadership at the national and at the local level has not gone away. As an organization, we need to address this “weed.” We all lead busy lives. Our work and families can be all-consuming, but I firmly believe that leaders reside among the many members of NLAPW. Maybe a little soul searching is in order.
One last item relative to the fiduciary responsibilities of the Board of Directors is the matter of the amendment to the bylaws that has been proposed by the Governance Committee and approved by the board for consideration by the membership. The recommendation for approval is reasonable and fiscally responsible. It has the endorsement of the Finance and Budget Committee.
An annual audit is a tremendous expense to the League, and an audit one year with a review the next assures that every administration will undergo a full audit, but will have a lesser expense over the two-year period. Even if the cost of the review is as much as half the cost of the audit, the League will save a large amount of money. Please vote to approve this amendment. The ballot will be in the next issue of the magazine, Winter 2020.
A closing thought. Someone recently said to me, “If you really need to get something done, ask a busy person to do it.” Think about it.
Letter from the National President Evelyn B. Wofford, Summer 2019
The Talent Among Us
Every once in a while a person hears something or reads something that makes a particular impression because of the succinct and powerful manner in which its truth is expressed.
The Reverend Robin Johnson Moscati, the League’s fourth vice president who also holds the position of chaplain, delivers an inspiration before each Board of Directors’ meeting, and each is truly inspirational.
I have chosen in this article to share the words that were given by The Reverend Moscati before the April 27, 2019, board meeting. I trust that they will be an inspiration to each of you as they were to the board’s members.
Something that is becoming more frequent in our techno-savvy culture is the electronic signature. I need to sign for debit or credit sales on a pad or a square with a pretend pen with no ink. My check-in at the hospital for X-rays or blood work includes a hand scan machine, which is a cross between a kindergarten-type outline and an airport body scan. I am told it reads the blood vessels in my hand, meaning that my fingerprints are passe.
I, however, do not agree that my fingerprints are irrelevant. I happen to like the fact that no one has MY fingerprints. It reminds me of what I know of snowflakes: No two are alike. Not alike, but all the same, especially when creating a snow angel or a snowman, or cleaning the driveway.
Is that how our Maker sees us? Each one is special and individual, yet all are of one type. As children, many of us sang, “Red and yellow, black and white — all are special in His sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.”
To that, we can add the artistic variations: tan, brown, copper, almond, ebony, ecru, bronze, beige, olive, ruddy, ivory, and even freckled. The Almighty is the creative painter with the eternal pallet.
Likewise, the Spirit of a sculpture adds texture to our worldly lives. Not one of us is the same body type unless we have an identical twin. Even twins have different voice patterns and fingerprints. Imagine the meticulous attention to detail by our voice composer and skin sculptor to make sure that every single one of us has our own identity, our own specialness.
A fingerprint can now log-in to a smartphone or can link files to names and addresses. If Ancestry.com develops a fingerprint log-on, it will connect us to our cyber DNA, family trees, and ethnic genealogy.
I prefer to look for an artist’s fingerprints on statuary and within artistic expressions, rather than ponder who knows what about whom in the electronic cloud. Books have been written about “God moments,” which I prefer to call “God’s fingerprints.”
What I mean is, I marvel at evidence and glimpses of divine influence in our daily lives that appear to have been put there by the Maker. When some will credit coincidence or karma or zodiac alignments, I thank God for reminding me of God’s presence in the world and in my life.
Each of us has God’s fingerprints upon us and we are signed works of art. The Artist stands back from time to time to admire how wonderfully and beautifully made we are. Sometimes a bit of tweaking can take place, but overall we are knitted together perfectly from the moment of creation. That signed piece of art, finely written poem, and original soundtrack is you; it is me; it is each and every one of us.
“I will put my law in their minds and will write it on their hearts, I will be their God and they will be my people.” —Jeremiah 31:33
Holy One, thank you for giving us art and words and music to express our inner specialness. We pray that our expressions will not only bring us pride, but will also give you glory for the individual gifts that we have been given. Our blessings have your glorious fingerprints and traces of the Divine are always present in our minds, in our hearts, and in our talents.
—The Reverend Robin Johnson Moscati
Letter from the National President Evelyn B. Wofford, Spring 2019
The Mission Continues
One of the privileges and pleasures of being the national president is being able to visit our branches. Since taking office in May, I have been a visitor at meetings of the Chevy Chase, D.C., and Alexandria branches here in the D.C. area; and, very recently, meetings of Santa Clara County and Diablo-Alameda branches in California. What a treat it has been to meet wonderfully talented women who are at work promoting the mission and values of our League!
Among the things that I have noticed consistently in my visits are emphases on outreach, membership recruitment, and exposure to the League itself. In most instances, outreach is accomplished in the form of services to community agencies, especially schools, and scholarship and award opportunities. Membership recruitment is often intertwined with outreach and exposure to a branch. I observed two wonderful examples in California.
The Santa Clara County Branch “Celebrity Luncheon,” which takes place on the first Saturday of February each year, is both a fundraising activity for scholarship monies and a recruitment tool for new members. The luncheon honors women in the county who have achieved professionalism in the arts.
Most frequently, these women are not Pen Women but because of their accomplishments, they are eligible for membership and become members of the Santa Clara County Branch. This luncheon also features a silent auction and raffle during which funds are raised for the annual student scholarship awards.
The program gives awards of $1,000 in the categories of art, music, and writing. By supporting students in the arts, the branch is laying the groundwork for lifelong involvement in the arts and future active membership in NLAPW. It also encourages student membership.
Another form of outreach and exposure to the League that I witnessed was the marvelous art show titled “Celebrate Women,” featuring works by members of the NorCal Branches of NLAPW. It ran Dec. 13 through March 1 in the John O’Lague Galleria, located in the Hayward City Hall and sponsored by the Hayward Arts Council. What a nice way to introduce our organization to a very diverse audience!
I know that branches across the United States are engaged in similar activities, and our national membership needs to be aware of them as examples to applaud and emulate. I have highlighted these branches because I saw in action the types of outreach that were outlined in Gail Speckmann’s article in the Winter 2019 issue of The Pen Woman. Please continue to let us know what is going on in your branch or area.
In other matters of national interest, Pen Arts continues to host events to expand its outreach and exposure to the community and its members.
• On Feb. 3, Swap DC attracted over 350 people interested in swapping their “stuff” for someone else’s “stuff.”
• On Feb. 10, a totally different crowd enjoyed our beautiful building when members of the Washington Opera Society hosted a pre-spring fundraising event. This gala affair featuring tenor Jesus Hernandez and pianist Barbara Wilkinson drew over 70 attendees.
• March will feature at least one jazz event.
• First Friday Art Walks continue.
• Three workshops are planned for May and early June.
Visit our website at nlapw.org/events to see some of the regular events.
We continue to make our presence felt in Washington, D.C., just as all of you are doing in your respective locations. Outreach at every level requires energy and hard work. I am extraordinarily glad that Pen Women understand what is required and continue to encourage, recognize, and promote the production of creative work of professional standard in art, letters, and music.
— Evelyn Wofford
P.S. I returned to D.C. from California totally energized by the very active Pen Women in NorCal. Would anyone else like a visit from the president?
Letter from the National President Evelyn B. Wofford, Winter 2019
The League Is on the Move
I am sitting in my office wondering what I can complain about this go-round. Freezing temperatures have pretty much eliminated the actual weeds that I have been fighting, so I guess I am good to go on that front. The weather? Well, it is cold. Snow, sleet, and freezing rain are in the forecast.
Mind you, my home state of Mississippi has already had snow, sleet, and freezing rain, so I can’t very well rant about this terrible northern weather happening before the middle of November. Maintenance issues and administrative tasks, while still posing challenges, are for the most part being handled routinely. So… complaints are out, positives are in.
Pen Arts is a busy place! The first Saturday of each month, the D.C. Branch hosts its meetings here and has been opening its programs to the public. The second Saturday of the month, the General Federated Women’s Club-DC meets here. The members are interested in partnering with NLAPW in some community projects.
For the past three months, our Pen Arts Gallery has been open to the public for the DuPont Circle First Friday Art Walk. Attendance is growing. On Sept. 29, the gallery participated in the D.C. Art All Night event, with 480 people visiting. Writing and art workshops conducted by young women from the D.C. area have been offered to interested community participants every other Saturday since September. Janea West, director of operations and events, is doing a fine job advertising NLAPW and Pen Arts.
Board week was particularly busy. On the Saturday before the board meeting, Pen Arts began to welcome Pen Women who were coming in to attend Smithsonian instructor Lauren Kingsland’s workshop, Design Your Day, which took place Sunday, Oct. 14. She led the participants in creating an individual quilt-for-the-hand, designed to elicit peacefulness, contemplation, and mindfulness. It was an extraordinary workshop.
During the week as board members arrived, they set about performing needed tasks at Pen Arts and participating in committee meetings. The board meeting on Saturday went extremely well, with only two members unable to attend. In the evening, board members and the public were treated to a delightful musical performance of Appalachian folk songs by National Treasurer Barbara Nunes, who sang and accompanied herself on the dulcimer.
Among actions taken by the board were the amendment of the League’s long-range plan and the decision to begin fundraising activities to match the McGrath Family Trust donation. My firm hope is that by the time members are reading this article, the League is well on its way to the $25,000 match.
Other important positives of note:
• Our webinar offerings are being accessed and are bringing in much needed revenue. If any of you would like to record a webinar to add to our library, please contact Candace Long at firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Jamie Tate continues to accept proposals for workshops to be hosted at Pen Arts. Please contact her at email@example.com or 662.822.1491.
• Booz Allen Hamilton has added NLAPW to its Log Volunteer Hours Program thanks to a nomination by Carlton Reid, who is an employee of the firm, the husband of D.C. Branch President Grace Reid, and the son of former NLAPW National President Dr. Bernice Reid. This opportunity will be a major resource for the League, and plans are being formulated to effectively access this asset.
• New membership is occurring in a number of branches, and former members are renewing their membership under the new guidelines that were adopted this year.
I cannot deny that the League still faces difficulties. New membership has not yet offset the losses that have occurred over the past several years. Offices at the national level are still unfilled. Tax problems remain. Negatives to be sure, but the League is on the move.
We are making a difference in all the areas where branches and members-at-large are located. We are not, like those weeds, withering on the vine.
Did I mention that it is cold up here?
Letter from the National President Evelyn B. Wofford, Fall 2018
Cleaning the Garden — Still
Just so there is no misunderstanding, I abhor, despise, and detest weeds, and I hate all the physical activities necessary for their eradication. I began my tenure as president ridding the gardens at Pen Arts of weeds, and I am still trying to ride herd on the pesky little devils.
Many maintenance tasks befall the president of NLAPW, and having been on the board for the past four years, I was very much aware of what lay before me. Unfazed, I have tackled the issues as I would if I were handling them at my own home.
I have cleaned or replaced air conditioner filters (12 thus far); tackled drainage, plumbing, electrical, and appliance issues; made sure that the refrigerators were operating properly and were clean (all three of them); washed and folded bed linens and towels after the departure of guests; cleaned bathrooms (there are nine of them); dusted, vacuumed, swept, mopped as required (the two- or three-person cleaning crew works three hours a month, and this building has 21 rooms).
Maintenance issues I can handle — but these weeds.
Certainly, administrative tasks fall under the purview of the president. After all, administration is what the presidency is all about, isn’t it? How wonderful to be able to talk to League members, to officers of branches to address questions, to offer aid when problems arise or congratulatory remarks for achievements, to interact with board members as plans for the League are made! How important to see that policies and procedures are followed, a functioning filing system and database are in place, regular office hours are established, financial checks and balances are established, national board members understand and accept the responsibility of serving at the national level, and officers at the branch level understand and accept their responsibilities as well!
Administrative tasks I truly enjoy — but these weeds.
So why am I subjecting myself to the heat and humidity of this oppressive Washington summer? Because first appearances make a difference.
The first thing that a visitor sees when approaching the Pen Arts building is the garden area. I want a visitor to notice the deep-red blossoms of the crepe myrtles and the bright purple of the althea blooms, the sunny yellow flowers of the daylilies, which are struggling to maintain an appearance, and the purple spikes of the monkey grass border that fronts the beds. The weeds have to go so the garden can make its statement.
Pen Arts and NLAPW through its Board of Directors are making a statement as well. Numerous guests have visited these past several months, welcomed in most cases by the League’s charming Presidential Assistant and Director of Operations and Events Janea West.
The June board meeting was well attended and board members immersed themselves in the business of directing a nonprofit corporation. They studied the bylaws and standing rules of the League; familiarized themselves with policies and procedures; looked carefully at the League’s financial condition; and discussed very seriously how the League can address its mission of providing educational, creative, and professional support to members and nonmembers in the disciplines of art, letters, and music.
Among the actions that have been taken by the board are a revival of the League’s webinar and workshop initiatives for professional development and creative inspiration, opening Pen Arts for neighborhood events and tours, and promoting the fact that members and their families can stay at Pen Arts for a very reasonable fee while they visit Washington and can even stay for free if they perform assigned tasks for the League.
Webinars and workshops are already being advertised, and Pen Arts has hosted two musical events. On the evening of June 23 following the board meeting, the board and many local attendees were treated to a musical concert by pianist Grace Reid, violinist Simone Shuffet, and cellist Romain Olivier Gray. On Saturday afternoon, Aug. 4, neighbors were treated to a piano performance by Cameron Fuhrman, a doctoral student in piano performance at Eastman School of Music.
On Sept. 1, Pen Arts was the venue for a reception given by friends and relatives of centenarian and World War II code breaker Angeline Nanni, celebrating her birthday and honoring her accomplishments. On Sept. 7, our newly renovated gallery space will be open to the public as part of the Dupont Circle First Friday Art Walk.
The flower that is our organization continues its struggle against the weeds that seem determined to asphyxiate it. There is a crisis of leadership at the branch and at the national level. An issue that has been raised by branch presidents is that it is difficult for them to find members willing to serve as an officer.
At the national level, several key offices remain unfilled. While applications for new members continue to be submitted, renewals of membership continue to decline. While cost-cutting measures have been severe, expenses for goods and services continue to increase.
And then there are the big surprises. In March, the League received a property tax bill for the tax year Oct. 1, 2017, through Sept. 30, 2018, in the amount of $32,632.16 — of which half was due and paid in March and the second half to be paid in September. On Aug. 14, the League received a revised property tax bill (prompted by an earlier inspection of the premises) for the same tax year of $49,275.40 due in its entirety by Sept. 15. Of course, this action is being challenged on several levels — but a major WEED.
One final weed that I will mention is negativism. I am not a Pollyanna, but I do believe that most hardships (read “weeds”) can be overcome by hard work, courage (out of absolute necessity the Board of Directors has voted to increase dues for next year by 42 cents per month — that is $5), and a positive attitude. I trust that all of the members of the National League of American Pen Women, Inc. believe in this organization as strongly as this administration does.
— Evelyn Wofford