Last Thursday and Friday, April 19th and 20th, the CDSS board and staff gathered in Easthampton, MA for the annual board meeting. When I arrived early on Thursday morning, helpful signs and arrows guided me through the sometimes maze-like hallways of the Eastworks building to a sunny room with seats for 36 and a piano in the corner. Board members from across the U.S. and Canada were enjoying a light breakfast, chatting with staff and unpacking laptops, folders and bars of chocolate. Those who had arrived the day before were discussing the Wednesday night contra dance in Amherst, where some people had gone to dance together before settling in for the meeting. New CDSS Executive Director Rima Dael said she had tucked her 6-year old daughter into bed “dreaming of contra dancing.” The general atmosphere was one of excitement and anticipation. As a staff member who mostly works remotely, I was looking forward to spending two whole days with my co-workers and meeting the board who devote so much energy to our organization.
Part of the air of anticipation was certainly due to the fact that the board was welcoming both a new board president and a new Executive Director. New board president David Millstone expressed his joy in welcoming Rima as our new ED by winding up and setting off a toy puppy that did back-flips: “this is how we all feel about having you on board!” There were two new board members at the table as well: Rob Harper, an active dance organizer from the Atlanta area, and Lorraine Lee Hammond of Brookline, MA, who led us all in a song before we began. The song’s refrain, “Swing and turn, jubilee, live and learn, jubilee,” set the perfect tone for the hard work this passionate group was about to tackle.
The meeting agenda included some routine business such as budget reviews and approving new policies. There was also some discussion of our upcoming Centennial in 2015, which will bring a host of celebrations, new publications and public outreach. Several rounds of applause were given for the staff, board members and volunteers who have been working for the past several years to facilitate the change in CDSS leadership. Along with an unimaginable variety of chocolates, many cards circled the table throughout the meeting for the board to express its gratitude to those who have helped with this transition. At the end of the first day, interim ED Marie Dalton-Meyer appeared for a thank you party (and endured a rousing chorus of “Marie’s a jolly good fellow.”) Through all this there seemed to be a feeling of empowerment from both the board and the staff. People are ready and excited to look toward the future of CDSS, beyond the transition.
At the heart of the meeting were our discussions about major directions for CDSS in the next few years, and I do mean heart. Board members and staff alike come to the table because they are ready to work for something they love. One activity was centered around the question “What do you hope to see in place for CDSS in the next three to five years?” This was where I learned the most about the talents and passions of the board. People listed ideas on half-sheets of paper and transformed one wall of our meeting room into a bulletin board bursting with ideas.
Some were practical, some were visionary; I think all are important. Nikki Herbst of Iowa City (former chair of the Nominating Committee) crystallized the overall vision for the work of CDSS when she pictured a future where “We reached the mainstream of isolated people who are overworked, out of shape, and unfulfilled. They were able to easily find a local event, where they were welcomed. They came back with their friends. They were not embarrassed about engaging in such simple pleasures as singing and dancing. They made it part of their lives.”
It was an honor to spend two days with people who believe the traditions we love can have such a big impact on the world. I can’t wait to live that future!