Representing The AIA Springfield Chapter At Grassroots In Washington DC – Part III

by Gerri Kielhofner, AIA, LEED AP BD+C

The next day at Grassroots started off with attending a breakfast with our peer groups – other components in the country that have similar size chapters. This breakfast meeting was probably the best one I’ve attended in the three years. Many people shared examples of what their chapters do to serve their members and make their chapters the best they can be. The second half of the morning, I attended a meeting where we discussed how to be a better leader. The best part of this seminar was how we learned that in a confrontation with people, it is better to say “and” instead of “but.” For instance, instead of saying, “I’m sorry to hear that you don’t agree with me, but you really are wrong,” it is better to say, “I’m sorry to hear that you don’t agree with me, and I hope in the future we can come to some sort of agreement on the issue.”

I had an interesting lunch discussion with several architects from Nebraska about our Springfield architects wanting the Springfield Public School staff to choose a local architect for one of our major school renovation projects. At first, they were sure that since we had done work in other states, that we had no business asking for local selection; however, when I pointed out the difference is the source of the money for these projects and how we want local tax dollars to stay local, they were nodding their heads. They also respected the fact that we had not tried to make the Nebraska firm the school chose look bad nor cast any mud upon their reputation.

My afternoon seminar at Grassroots was not as helpful.  A chapter the exact size as ours discussed how they had increased their revenue and membership by holding design charrettes.  They also allow members to have a reduced membership rate if they agree to do volunteer work for the chapter.  They are obviously very successful.  They have a operating budget of around $80,000, more than twice what our chapter survives on.

Instead of going home Friday night as planned, we ended up walking to dinner at the DC Chophouse.  The snow had started around noon, but it really hadn’t started sticking too much yet.  We did get our feet wet from the slush because we hadn’t brought waterproof shoes!  Dinner was delicious, as well as their home brewed Oatmeal Stout beer.  Little did we know that our stay was going to be extended much longer than expected!

By 8 am Saturday morning, the snow had accumulated to around 16 to 20 inches outside our hotel.  The city had come to a halt, and nothing was open!  We were informed by the concierge that only two museums were open – a wax museum and the News Museum.  We elected to visit the News Museum, which happened to be a very smart idea.  This museum features the history of the news in the United States and it was extremely interesting.  Brad and I stayed all day almost until they closed at 5 pm.  They have several movies tucked into corners throughout the museum, but the two parts I liked best were the displays on 911 and the Pulitzer Prize Photos.

There’s not much to say about the next two days.  Our flights kept getting delayed longer and longer.  I spent numerous hours on the phone trying to get earlier flights.  My in-laws who had been watching the kids generously offered to stay longer.  We had no options as far as site seeing; however, there were several restaurants open.  We didn’t have any snow boots (or stores open to buy them until Monday) and so every time we went walking to eat, our feet got soaked and cold.  They had cleared the streets and the sidewalks, however, there were few good paths between the streets and the sidewalks.  Luckily there was a Borders Bookstore three blocks away to get some books to read and Brad enjoyed the hotel health spa for a couple of hours one afternoon.

Finally on Tuesday morning, we headed to the airport by taxi because the Metro was still not running all the way out to the airport.  We’d already heard that another snow storm was coming and we knew Chicago was already having snow.  I really think it was a miracle that we got out of there.  Our flight out of DC was delayed for almost an hour, so we didn’t fly out until around 11 am.  My cousin told me later that at noon they started shutting the airport in DC down because another snow storm had started!  Chicago had several flights that were cancelled, but luckily ours was not.  We landed in Springfield at 3:30 pm that afternoon, happy to be home.  What an adventure!