Thursday, September 2, 2010

Day 13: The Scavenger Hunt

Photo of the Day: The Greatest Job in the World

So I know this quote doesn't refer to my position in particular, but I do feel like my job is the greatest in the world right now after an amazing day at work. Today the Taproot Foundation sent me and my fellow newcomer employees on a "scavenger hunt" throughout the city to introduce us to some of the nonprofit organizations that have benefited from Taproot's consulting grants. As a capacity-building firm, my challenge as a marketer is capturing the emotional bottom line and communicating how our work affects communities we serve, even though the actual projects we do seem so removed from the direct service experience. This exercise completely opened my eyes to that answer and really inspired me by showing what an incredible difference Taproot makes at the individual level and what an impact it has for these people who really appreciate the professional guidance that yields meaningful results.

Our first stop was the Museum at Eldridge Street, an organization housed in a historic synagogue that showcases the culture and history of the Jewish people and other immigrants in the Lower East Side with tours, exhibits, and events. Taproot had assisted them with a re-branding project and delivered new key messages that helped the museum define and clarify its identity, which is leading to more funding opportunities and better marketing tactics. We got to speak with the executive director, a powerful woman who told riveting stories; we hung on her every word throughout the hour-long conversation and soaked in all her career wisdom. Afterward we got a fascinating tour of the synagogue. Sometimes these tours can be boring, especially if they're focused only on a specific geographic area, but our guide made the stories relevant and brought them to life with his enthusiasm. The building was a breathtaking Moorish-revival style structure filled with light and hand-painted and carved details. I wasn't expecting such a stunning interior in such an unassuming location and was very pleasantly surprised by the beauty and serenity of the synagogue.

Later that day we connected with some of our clients at the FDNY Foundation, which provides public education and support to the city's fire department. They are currently involved in a Web site redevelopment project with Taproot. We met at the FDNY Store and education center right across the street from our office and were treated to an interactive fire safety course. Sounds pretty standard and dull, right? Not if you add in elaborate set pieces that looks pulled out of Disneyland, smoke machines, intricate light displays, surround sound, and multimedia presentations. It was almost like one of those 4-D rides that engages all your senses. I had no idea that fire safety could be so thrilling, and I actually learned a few valuable tips particular to New York living.

I can't begin to express how encouraging this day was for me, especially from a professional standpoint. My supervisor and I got some really great ideas on how to approach our new marketing plans, and from a purely personal standpoint, I had a blast exploring new areas of the city. This post has gone a lot longer than I wanted, and I didn't even get to talk about my bargain lunch in Chinatown. Be sure to scroll down for the rest of the photographs!

The Museum at Eldridge Street, housed in a restored Jewish synagogue on the Lower East Side.
Barry, our tour guide, explains the significance of the ark and its roots in God's law
Tour guide Barry translates one of the synagogue signs written in Yiddish and explains how the immigrant Jews incorporated American culture into their language and practices.
My co-workers Allie and Francesca admire the intricate Jewish iconography carved into the wood of the banister railing.
The stunning main synagogue, still in the process of restoration as evidenced by the wood beams and scaffolding.
Barry, our tour guide, weaves together architecture, history, and culture with fascinating stories and tidbits.
The carved wooden stand where they lay the Torah scrolls during services. It reminds me of the Balinese woodwork.
The synagogue's trademark stain glass rose window with Moorish motifs.
Lunchtime! A counter cook makes sesame pancake sandwiches at Vanessa's Dumpling House in Chinatown.
Part of my scrumptious and dirt-cheap lunch. My entire (quite sizable) meal was only $4.25, and the dumplings were incredible!
Also included in the $4.25 was this very filling Peking duck sesame pancake sandwich. Talk about decadence!
Our next stop at the FDNY Store and education center near the Rockefeller Plaza. I made Allie climb into the fire truck for this picture.
Francesca is amazed by the oxygen tanks used by the firefighters!
Doesn't this scene look unreal? This was the interactive education center, which completely blew us away. We were expecting to sit in a classroom watching cheesy videos (although there were some of those), but instead we were treated to an amazing simulation and a very well-produced presentation with great fire safety tips.
My supervisor, Dupe, the external affairs manager, rocks out in a FDNY firefighter coat.
Allie talks with some representatives from our nonprofit client, the FDNY Foundation. On the wall are fire department patches from all over the nation.


  1. er... can we fit in a meal the dumpling house above during the weekend? scrap the pizza if necessary! i want DUMPLINGS.

  2. Haha, yes, I will try to fit it in! The dumplings were really good, and SO CHEAP! I didn't know you could still get food for those prices, much less really good Chinese cuisine. I literally ordered three things off the menu for less than five bucks. But I think we're also hitting up Joe's Shanghai for dumpling soup, so hopefully it's won't be overkill.

  3. Your enthusiasm for your work is both encouraging and refreshing to hear! What better way to get motivated than to see the difference your foundation is already making? Very cool :-). Haha, I love the pictures of the guy showing you around the synagogue. He looks so animated and passionate about whatever he is explaining to you. And the building looks so beautiful! Hehe did you tell the firefighters that you are a certified Wildland Firefighter, Type 2 (yes, I had to look up your old blog for that)?

    oh man.. those dumplings... i'm drooling! i love dumplings! you'll love Joe's Shanghai!! Their soup dumplings and beef noodle soup are SOOO AMAZING!!

  4. Thanks, Michelle! It was such an awesome day, and it really is important to remind yourself frequently why your job matter and is significant, if only to motivate you to perform better and be more optimistic. The synagogue really was a surprise because the museum is in Chinatown, which is not the fanciest of neighborhoods, but our guide did a great job if creating build up. Haha, I did NOT tell them I was a Wildland Firefighter, Type 2 because 1) it's completely different than structural firefighting, and 2) I didn't want to insinuate I am somehow in the same league as the FDNY when my "wildland firefighter" experience was actually very diluted.

    The dumplings were wonderful, and I heard there is actually a competitor dumpling place nearby that is equally cheap and even better! I have also heard so much about Joe's Shanghai, and I'm looking forward to trying it one of these days.