Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Empower Closes

For those who have been following my blog for the last several months, I have mentioned the agency I used to work for in DC, Empower, and how I helped save what was a struggling nonprofit organization and make it the successful national agency it became. I was sad to leave it last summer, but times change and I was ready for new challenges in new places. My last day was August 8, 2005.

I found out a few weeks ago that Empower had to close it doors permanently in April.

Upon hearing this news, I was instantly swollen with sadness, anger, disappointment, melancholy, and bewilderment. What could have happened in the last 8 months that would render an organization so broke that it would have to end its business? No cutting back, no layoffs, no payroll reductions. Closed for good.

Back in February, I received an email from the founder telling me that the Board of Directors had to escort the Executive Director out of the office and terminate her employment. At the time, I was told that a new search had begun for her replacement. So I had high hopes that someone would swoop in and help save the organization, just like I had done back in 2002. But I guess it was not to be. After some emails to old co-workers got returned to me with "mailbox full" responses, I emailed the founder and got the news.

The organization was a nonprofit whose mission was to work with youth to end the culture of bullying, hazing, homophobia, and teasing among youth. It was revolutionary. And it was important. And it did good work. And it touched people. And it changed -- and saved -- lives. Maybe that is what I have to take away from this - that I was part of it all. Knowing that so many kids commit suicide because of peer pressure, and that some even take the lives of others for the same reason, I realize how important an organization like this was. Or, rather, still is.

And now those feelings of anger and sadness will creep back into my heart, exactly the place they shouldn't be. I guess I may never really know what went wrong there. But I can rest assured that, for a while, I helped make a difference.