Most children can't possibly imagine what career they will eventually pursue as adults (except maybe for Major League baseball players or U.S. President), but from the time Mt. Airy resident Jennifer …
Most children can't possibly imagine what career they will eventually pursue as adults (except maybe for Major League baseball players or U.S. President), but from the time Mt. Airy resident Jennifer Ailey began her studies at Springside Chestnut Hill (2002 to 2015), she was already crafting handwritten stories in notebooks, tearing the pages out and stapling them all together as though they were bound like a book.
“I would always hand them to my grandfather first,” she recalled, “because I cherished his feedback and support. My passion for storytelling was always apparent.”
Once she entered middle school at Springside, Jennifer was convinced she was going to be a journalist. Whether it was her infatuation with the film, “The Devil Wears Prada,” or her father’s insistence that they read a physical newspaper every day, Jennifer was propelled toward a writing career like an arrow toward its target. “By the time I started Dickinson College in 2015, the field of journalism had changed from what I grew up aspiring to. The landscape was thinner and had obviously grown more competitive.”
College is where Ailey really honed her skill as a long-form writer. As an English major, she was expected to think and write clearly and in a concise manner. “The intention behind journalism still spoke to me,” she said last week, “but the experience of writing a senior thesis is what triggered my desire to one day publish a book.”
And publishing a book is exactly what Ailey has just done. After extensive research into charitable nonprofit organizations, Ailey's book, “Give it Our All: Creating Sustainable Change Through the U.S. Nonprofit Sector,” was published on Sept. 29 by New Degree Press, a publishing house in Potomac, MD. (Maggie King, another Springside alumna, also had a book, “Pregame,” published by New Degree Press in 2019. It contains inspiring stories of young people in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction.)
According to Elliott bat Tzedek of Big Blue Marble Bookstore in West Mt. Airy, “'Give It Our All' provides an insider's look at sustainable charity, ethical business practices and the future of the nonprofit sector in America. “If you're searching for a better way to give back, Ailey's book is a must-read,” he said.
Ailey will discuss her new book virtually in connection with Big Blue Marble Bookstore on Wednesday, Nov. 10, 8 p.m. The book urges readers to look closely at nonprofits you may want to donate your money to.
“It is unrealistic to assume that your donation solely supports the recipients of the charitable service,” she said. “The organization itself needs to be sustained. In my book, I try to circle back to the reality that we live in a capitalist society. A redundant fact but one that I believe is important to recognize in conjunction with the existence of nonprofit organizations.”
Ailey dedicates one chapter to the process of writing grants because through her research she found that money garnered from grants is what keeps many nonprofits afloat. “It is a symbiotic relationship,” she said, “of maintaining money from grants to be able to achieve goals, and maintaining money from other avenues like donations to sustain administrative purposes. It’s hard for one to exist without the other.”
Interestingly, the coronavirus pandemic was actually a boost to Ailey's writing and research. She had just started a job at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts when the lockdown started. Luckily, PAFA supported her financially throughout the spring and into the summer.
“Writing this book became the perfect pandemic project,” she said. “Before work-from-home, I did not have the same sort of deadlines and office politics that my friends were experiencing. It sounds silly, but I was envious. But with everyone else transitioning to work-from-home, I felt more aligned with people my age than ever.”
For more information or to sign up for the Nov. 10 event, call 215-844-1870 or visit bigbluemarblebooks.com. Len Lear can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org