Meet Lillian Thompson, St. Louis BWorks volunteer & Soulard Resident

Meet Lillian Thompson, St. Louis BWorks volunteer & Soulard Resident

When Lillian Thompson moved into the little house beside St. Louis BWorks a few years ago, the organization gained a really wonderful neighbor ­– and vice versa.

Thompson, who worked overseas in the corporate sector and then in the Peace Corps before retiring to the Gateway City, quickly became impressed with the activities occurring next door. Before long she got involved as a volunteer herself.

“I value BWorks as a neighbor and wanted to give back because they are great neighbors,” says Thompson, who has now lent her expertise and energy to three full seasons of the Create-A-Book program. “The last session, fall 2017, was the best one yet. We had nine enthusiastic young writers and five committed, talented mentors.”

Just a few weeks ago, Thompson and her fellow volunteers formally celebrated the completion of eight short stories (one was co-authored) by their students – with a book reading and signing event that drew a large crowd of parents, guardians, and families.

“All of the mentors in this fall’s writers’ workshop had amazing credentials and had a lot of fun using them in ways that made the program a success,” says Thompson, who has degrees and a background in drama, communication, and business.

Quick to shout out the other devoted Create-A-Book mentors, she notes Kristin Luther is a journalist and creative writer, while Sarah Shockley works in communications for Purina and has written for Highlights Magazine. Christina Veloso Pope conducted writing workshops in Brazil and now works for the nonprofit Welcoming America, and Karen Landon is an accomplished artist who worked in education for the Department of Veterans Affairs, managing the St. Louis Video Studio until she retired last year.

Thompson’s lifelong love of books and art is something that her mother, the first elementary school librarian in Vermont, helped instill in her early on.

“She read to me a lot and saw to it that I had the opportunity to participate in a broad range of fine arts programs in my own childhood,” Thompson says. “And her library was an inspiration to me. It was never tidy and never quiet; kids were always in there consulting with her about their research and reading projects.”

That passion, combined with Thompson’s commitment to community development during her time in the Peace Corps and with FEMA, helping communities recover from major disasters, makes her involvement with BWorks only natural.

“I guess I’ll always be doing something involving community development – BWorks is certainly part of that,” she says.

From her perspective as a next-door neighbor to the organization, Thompson sees an organization that, in her words, is “more than a place to pick up new skills and a bike or a computer,” wonderful as those goals and rewards are. There is something deeper happening, too.

“It’s an extremely well-run organization that instills a collaborative culture among the kids and the volunteers,” she says. “The BWorks culture runs across all the programs, and it’s enthusiastic, energized, focused and team-oriented.”

Volunteer Spotlight – Matt Migalla, Bike Mechanic

Volunteer Spotlight – Matt Migalla

Matt Migalla (pictured at left) is modest about his contributions to the bike shop at St. Louis BWorks. But that’s where he has spent many of his Thursday evenings the past six months – and he’s proven to be a great addition to the team in that short amount of time.

Whether he’s salvaging parts or refurbishing donated bicycles, Matt brings welcome energy and expertise to the tasks at hand, all of which help to support BWorks’ programs for youth.
“I immediately felt comfortable there,” he says about his continued volunteerism with the organization. “There’s great collaboration between the more experienced and the less experienced, and the staff is amazingly talented.”

Matt started lending a hand at BWorks after coming across the organization’s booth at a winter bike expo near his home in southern Illinois. When he heard a staff member say BWorks could always use more volunteers, he jumped at the opportunity to help.

“I really believe in the mission that BWorks has developed over the years,” says Matt, adding that he’s convinced the organization “walks the walk” when it comes to achieving that vision.

At the same time, he sees the opportunity for growth in the level of awareness about BWorks among his neighbors on the Illinois side of the Mississippi River.

“Especially in the Metro East here, a lot of people don’t know about BWorks, even though it’s been around for about 30 years,” Matt says.

He’s doing his part to help get the word out and be an ambassador – and is even organizing a bike drive this fall at Cahokia Mounds, the state historic site where he has lived and worked as assistant manager for over three decades.

That drive is set for 9 a.m. to noon October 7. For more information, see the event page.

Gamers – Laclede’s LAN 16 – March 12 & 13 at St. Louis University – Benefits ByteWorks

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LANFest – Laclede’s LAN 16 – March 12 & 13 at St. Louis University – to Benefit St. Louis ByteWorks

For gamers, a LAN party is a great way to connect with local folks with shared interests. For gamers in the Midwest, Laclede’s LAN 16, is THE opportunity to enjoy a weekend of connecting with fellow gamers, all for charity. This event will be held onMarch 12 and 13, 2016 at St. Louis University. Laclede’s LAN will generously donate proceeds from ticket sales to St. Louis Byte Works and additional proceeds to fellow St. Louis nonprofit, Angel Baked Cookies.

A part of the LANFest mission is to provide benefit and support to nonprofit organizations. We’d like to take a moment to discuss the organization that will receive most of the benefit from the ticket sales of the Laclede’s LAN 16 event. One organization that our staff has chosen is St. Louis ByteWorks.

Through the Earn-a-Computer program, St. Louis ByteWorks helps local kids learn the skills to successfully operate a computer, gain experience with various types of software, learn some networking skills, and learn how to safely search the Internet and send and receive E-mail. These skills are designed to extend their knowledge of the computer and its uses as well as build confidence.

To learn more about St. Louis ByteWorks programs and community involvement, click here.

Did You Know?

DID YOU KNOW

St. Louis BWorks Students:
482 kids between the ages of 7 and 17 participated in BWorks programs (Earn-A-Bike, Earn-A-Computer & Create-A-Book).  These students came from 39 different communities in the St. Louis Metro Area (St. Louis City, St. Louis County, St. Charles County, Madison County, IL), and in 2013, 56% of those students came from communities outside of the City of St. Louis.

BWorks Family Friendly Rides:
BWorks is offering a series of family friendly bicycle rides in St. Louis that highlight different historic areas of the city.  The rides will highlight:  Historic Carondelet • Calvary Cemetery • Central West End / West End Literary Tour • Automiblie Row / Locust Street • Old North St. Louis • Lafayette Square & Soulard • Bellefontaine Cemetery.  For complete details visit BWorks Events page.

BWorks Bike Drives:
BWorks depends heavily on donated bicycles to fund our three children’s programs (Bike Works’ Earn-A-Bike: Book Works’ Create-A-Book; and Byte Works’ Earn-A-Computer).  The sale of the donated adult bikes covers not only the costs associated with these classes but also contributes a large percentage of the BWorks total yearly operating costs.

In the spring and early summer BWorks, in cooperation with local communities, businesses, schools, religious organization, civic groups and individuals, has a series of Bike Drives in which we collect the donated bikes that will become the adult sale bikes • kids bikes for our Earn A Bike students • bicycles we donate to other local organizations • bikes we donate to Bikes for the World which become primary modes of transportation in developing countries • and those damaged bikes and parts which are recycled locally.

Anything you can do in terms of making a donation of an bike you no longer use or organize a bike drive in your community, place of employment, religious organization, civic group or individually will help us help kids.  To find out how to start a Bike Drive, please contact us by E-mail to info@bworks.org.