Just after I graduated from college at forty, I found a note posted in the library about a support group for adults with ADHD. I’d just read “You Mean I’m Not Lazy, Crazy or Stupid?” by Peggy Romundo and Kate Kelly. Maybe ADD was one of the reasons it had taken 18 years to finish my degree. I thought I’d look into the group.
Within months, I’d begun volunteering for mailing parties and had been drafted to serve as a board member. Every meeting was a new opportunity for learning and each volunteer effort a time for sharing stories. I’d found a refuge where my talents were appreciated and my problems understood. I was not only getting better, I finally belonged.
Cynthia Hammer, MSW founded our first support group in Tacoma, WA in 1993. Established as a non-profit a year later as ADDult Support of Washington, Cynthia became the unpaid director. She and other professionals she’d approached to contribute compiled the ADDult ADD Reader to raise funds. In 1995, we started a quarterly newsletter, ADDult ADDvice, packaged it with the ADD Reader and an ever-growing lending library of books, tapes and videos as benefits of membership. We also began hosting public talks, professional workshops for treatment providers and teachers, one-day workshops for parents and others for on work and relationship issues for adults.
Many of our events relied on presenters speaking for gratis or at a discounted rate. For many years, all promotion, preparation, and hosting duties relied on volunteers and board members recruited by Cynthia.
2002 was a banner year. We merged with the Seattle ADHD Support group and changed our name to ADD Resources to reflect expanding our services to parents. By the following year, we’d opened an office, hired staff and hosted our first annual conference. I worked part-time in the office, taking phone calls and meeting new visitors looking for answers. A few became vital volunteers.
We also added additional support groups, 2 of them for parents – each with their own library. 2004 connected us to a wider audience with the new version of our website and the National Providers Directory. Cynthia wrote a monthly e-news. Just notes really, but always packed with new sources of information she’d found online. To provide support via the web, Cynthia approached presenters to provide free monthly podcasts. We soon added another each month. Over 100 are now saved in the Podcast/Webinar archives reserved for members.
Cynthia retired at the end of 2007. I left at the same time. Francine Lawrence replaced Cynthia, with Kathy Engle serving as the office manager. Kathy took over the reins as Executive Director a year later and managed the organization for 3 years. I returned to work with Kathy as a volunteer. The office was getting busier with more calls for help from further away. Making connections among the growing number of available providers and services available for ADHD showed how far the field had grown since the organization was begun. We started a Facebook page to serve a wider audience and opened an online bookstore which provided additional funding until Amazon began selling many of our titles at a better price.
Events were getting more professional but still depended on the kindness of local providers, both to present and promote. Board members and select volunteers provided hosting duties with the event facility providing basic services. Kathy Engle, Dr. David Pomeroy and other members of the Board of Directors also updated The ADHD Reader in 2011, seeking new articles on the latest information about both children and adults. Several new support groups were started, but keeping facilitators was a problem. We owe those who have served faithfully as group leaders a debt of gratitude.
Kathy’s departure brought difficult times. The duties of the director of a non-profit organization involve combining the support and efforts of many good people and transforming them into services that inspire and benefit many. Filling the position is not an easy task. For nine months, Steve Curry served as the interim director in addition to his full-time job. Brandon Koch worked part- time and we carried on as we were able. Thanks to hours of overtime, Steve pulled off the planned conference, but we had to close the bookstore and the lending library, and began using email and the answering machine to cover the hours when no one was in the office. Webinars also fell by the wayside. Many of the services we’d pioneered were now available elsewhere.
Laura Del Ragno took over in early 2013 but on a part-time basis. She had two months to plan, promote and host a workshop on relationships and we’d lost our office lease. Seeking to protect the membership section of the website, access to the many articles that had previously been public became inaccessible. Navigating the website became a frustrating experience. When Laura left, Brandon continued on, working with the office manager, Janice Tharp, and occasional volunteers.
Late in 2013, Megan McDonald was brought in as the new executive director. Due to the lack of continuity during the previous years, she and her staff have a steep learning curve. They need to recreate infrastructure, connect with old friends and supporters of the organization as well as redesign the website. Meanwhile, the board has been revitalized. They are asking for the help of volunteers and members to maintain and rebuild ADD Resources into a vital organization by providing both local support and information through web services.
We now host 6 support groups in Washington state including one for partners. Three more are planned to open by 2015. Working towards building the faith and loyalty of members whose support continues to drive the non-profit’s funding base will take time. But, with your help, those who work with and for the organization will be able to serve the ADHD community well through the coming years.
Editors note: Unfortunately, the organization was unable to recover financially and did close its doors in March of 2016. If you would like to share some way that the people or services of ADD Resources impacted your life, please visit the Memorial page and leave a comment.
Joan Riley Jager (2014)
Note: In the three years since retirement, I have curated a Pinterest page with over 15,000 pins about ADHD and related topics. I now have almost 10,000 followers. February 29, 2016
Photo credits – Since 1994 photo created by Meg McDonald – Poster created on Canva