Reconnecting with Deaf Connection

I’ve spent more time at Global Deaf Connection (GDC) here in Minneapolis, volunteering a couple of hours per week. Joel Runnels is the new interim CEO and for the first time in a couple of years I feel someone is really putting effort into the organization. Now, I’m contemplating staying with GDC as a volunteer.

Three years ago I found GDC through a volunteers website. I wanted to offer my computer technical skills and they needed someone to support a handful of computers, a server and their FileMaker Pro database. Kevin Long, founder of GDC, contacted me and I started spending time as sort of on-call technical support.

Things were great until Kevin left and in the meantime the organization began deteriorating. Kevin’s replacement proved not to be an effective leader and decision-maker. His successor Amber, replacing him several months later, was also an interim replacement but she was unable to assume all responsibilities. Over time, I received fewer and fewer calls and they were far between.

Joel is now inheriting an office that once had more than half a dozen volunteers and employees, some who were part of grants, but now the Minneapolis office just him. He’s here to build the office again and my hope is he’ll do it right.

When Amber emailed me about Joel I took a few days to reply because I wasn’t sure I wanted to continue volunteering. I felt I was spinning my wheels, solving problems that I’d solved before. No one was particularly computer-savvy although they could each operate his own computer. The database mailing list was no longer being maintained and the only person who really used it had left. No institutional knowledge was getting passed along. I had learned long ago in my technical support experience that while, yes, I could probably figure out how to use someone’s software, I didn’t want to be stuck doing the work as well. That would drain more time than I had to give. I have a problem saying, “no”.

I told Amber that I suggested they find another technical support person and outlined some of my reasons above. However, I said I’d be glad to meet Joel and offer some assistance upfront.

As with any charitable organization money is the first concern. So, my first comments to Joel were about trying to run the organization on the “cheap”. For all his plans, if he wasn’t willing to invest in the technology to implement them well then he’d be spending more time finding workarounds and fixing problems than getting work accomplished. He shouldn’t spend money on trying to get non-networkable Windows-only printers to work with the Macs using gadgets and he needed to install a proper wired network rather than trying to network everything wirelessly in a building that heavily blocked signals.

He agreed and he’s offered me the first budget I’ve seen just for technology and infrastructure, including money to buy a new server and hopefully enough to wire the church building where they office.

At no point have I said I still wanted to continue with GDC and Joel hasn’t asked me to stay. But I think we’ve reached a silent agreement between the two of us that I’ll be around so long as he’s willing to do things right.

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