With her ability to see the vision of Making It Better and her compassion for providing an opportunity for children to succeed, Emma Kirchhofer is someone who we find to be invaluable to our organization. Emma’s involvement influences many aspects of our organization whether it’s mentoring our kids in the Lunch Bunch program, helping to promote literacy in the home at Family Literacy Nights, fundraising as a Guild member, or building capacity through administrative projects.
Which year did you begin your involvement with Making It Better?
How did you get involved?
I had known Jacque Daughtry, the Executive Director, for about five years and had been following what Making It Better had been doing. After completing a volunteer stint with another literacy-focused organization, I was impressed enough by the Making It Better mission and programs to begin volunteering in the Lunch Bunch program.
When did you join the Guild?
What is your experience like as a Guild member?
The Guild is an amazing group of women with a wide variety of backgrounds and current employment and/or community volunteerism levels. What we all share in common is a passion for promoting the cause of literacy in children and in particular through the programs/events of Making It Better. Fundraising is fun with this group! The Guild also provides a way to stay plugged in during years when volunteering on a weekly basis does not mesh with my work schedule.
What is the most rewarding thing about volunteering with Making It Better?
By far, the most rewarding thing about volunteering with Making It Better is having close relationships with kids and seeing them grow and mature both in their literacy skills and in their self-esteem and confidence. The two years I spent as a Lunch Bunch Mentor with the same group of girls were so gratifying. I knew it was time well spent. But even the short-term volunteering I’ve done (like with Family Literacy Nights or sorting supplies at Belmont) is rewarding because I know that the goal of everything at Making It Better is to help transform the lives of children through literacy.
How has Making It Better impacted your life?
My life has been enriched and my horizons broadened through volunteering with Making It Better. Seeing “statistics” as people (children and their families) has personalized the passion I have for improving the lives of all children in Houston and the surrounding areas. My children and their schoolmates had every advantage possible. Volunteering with Making It Better makes me feel that bringing those advantages to all children is possible if many people work to make it happen.
What’s your current job and title?
I’m currently Senior Strategy and Financial Analyst for Gilbert & Pardue Business Advisors (GaP). We provide mergers & acquisitions advisory/brokerage, consulting, and coaching services to middle and lower-middle market companies. In addition to my responsibilities at GaP, a friend and I have launched ReBoot Accel Houston. ReBoot Accel offers a suite of programs to get women current, connected, and confident to return to the workforce after a break, start a business, ramp up volunteer work, or pursue other new goals.
What’s your favorite children’s book?
That question is really hard to answer! Maybe the Jez Alborough books: Where’s My Teddy?, It’s the Bear!, and My Friend Bear. Also, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen. All of these books have either great rhyming or lots of onomatopoeias. They are fun to read because you can get really animated and into the story, and kids love that.
Did you read to your children when they were growing up?
Oh, yes! Hours upon hours of sitting cross-legged on the floor with one in my lap and maybe another snuggled next to me. It was always fun, though if we were past bedtime, I sometimes hid the really long books.
In your own words, why is literacy so important?
Kids learn in many ways. From their earliest days as babies, they absorb everything around them. It’s so easy to let much of that happen by default. It’s not always so easy to make the time to read to/with children. While we all know that kids love anything digital – TV, videos, video games, cell-phone apps, etc. – they also love being read to and having 1-on-1 or small group attention. I think kids feel special when being read to. And if kids don’t learn to love books and the printed word, they will be less likely ever to want to read on their own as teens or adults. Reading on your own is so vital whether that be for pleasure or to learn new facts about your job or to learn a new skill. Not everything can be learned from YouTube videos!
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I don’t have much spare time! However, I also volunteer in a program that works with high school juniors and seniors as they navigate the college and scholarship application processes. I enjoy spending time with my husband, three young-adult sons, and one daughter-in-law. I follow the Astros and all Texas A&M sports. And I have four international trips planned for 2018.
Share what your experience was like creating process manuals for Making It Better.
Earlier this year, Jacque approached me about documenting the work processes for Making It Better’s full-time staff. I eagerly agreed as I wanted to learn more about the organization, to get to know each person better, and hopefully to provide a valuable service that could ultimately further MIB’s efficiency. It was a tedious task as I had to work with each person to determine what is done on a daily, weekly, monthly, and annual basis and then document that in a consistent and easily-decipherable format. Also, I had discussions with each person about what their major functions/tasks are within Making It Better. The result of our combined efforts were process manuals for most positions. These differ from job descriptions in that they are more of a “what/how/when to do” than a broad description of a role or position. These will be living documents for Making It Better going forward that will be refined and improved as new staff and new programs are added.
What are your hopes for the future of Making It Better as an organization?
I’m so excited to see what the next 1, 3, 5, and 10 years bring for Making It Better. The vision and dedication of the staff, Board, founder, and volunteers is second to none! The Ready, Set, Read! Bus as a mobile classroom is just one example of the innovative ways the entire MIB organization thinks about how to improve literacy in Houston. As the message about Making It Better’s success in transforming lives through literacy continues to spread, I hope that many other individuals and organizations join us.
Why would you recommend that others get involved with Making It Better?
Making It Better is one of the best examples I know of people coming together to tackle an enormous challenge one step at a time. It is easy to look at a problem like illiteracy in our society and just throw our hands up and say, “How am I supposed to fix that?” One way to do it is to get involved with Making It Better: through weekly volunteering, one-time volunteering, the Guild, Young Professionals, and/or through monetary donations. Making It Better’s track rate is superb. Your time and money will be well spent. If you care or are concerned about the future of Houston, you will start to demonstrate that care/concern by getting involved with Making It Better now.
We are so grateful for Emma for helping us transform lives through literacy! To learn more about how you can get involved, click here. You may also contact our Volunteer & Outreach Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org.