Posted by Kim Leonard
Ready for some mixed emotion weirdness? Well, from me anyway- I’m in my last week here at DFP. I was offered an amazing opportunity and have decided to take it, but this of course means I am leaving my beloved work here at Downtown Fresno Partnership behind. This is way harder than a breakup, you guys! For the last three years I have lived, breathed, and blogged downtown. (Well, I was doing that before, but without a fancy business card saying that’s officially what I do.)
As I wrap up, I thought it might be kind of fun to look back the last three years because we’ve seen plenty of things change- even though on my end as the communications and marketing manager, I was mostly responsible for newsletter layout change. So sit back and enjoy my not-gonna-cry-at-my-desk JK-totally-crying-at-my-desk walk down memory lane.
When I was hired as a receptionist, Kate Borders, our previous President, gave me the newsletter to do with as I wished. I mean, seriously, I wasn’t there for two weeks before I had been tasked with the responsibility of getting the word out. I was pretty stoked. Here’s what that first one that I compiled looked like.
It’s had a few makeovers to the layout and content over the years, and I’m really proud of where it is now. You can sign up to receive it here if you’re like “Wow, that is a super neat and clean design! You’re right!”
Kate was out sick and she sent me a text message request- “Get a blog set up before I get back.” So I did, and the Downtown Fresno Blog was born.
So here’s a big, closely guarded secret- I’m also “DFP Staff” when you look at contributors. I don’t really know why I didn’t just give myself the props for the office updates, except that they felt like maybe they should come from some anonymous, more-important-than-just-little-ol’-me entity. Hello, self esteem issues! I’ve since gotten over that and take credit where credit is due.
Anyway, aside from my alter ego, my first blog post occurred on February 8th 2013. (I’d blogged two posts as DFP staff previously.) It was about an art project that I hosted at Twee (Remember Twee? Ahhhh, sweet memories.) asking people to write valentines to downtown Fresno. Kate let me put them up in the window of our office for the whole month, it was totally a tribute to some deeply hidden desire of mine to be a kindergarten teacher or something like that.
Since then, I’ve written 95 as Kim Leonard (Or, Schoelen which was my maiden name) and 48 as DFP Staff. I’ve coordinated with all 23 contributors over the past two and a half years to make each post happen, and formatted each of the 238 posts. We’ve had 70,500 views to date. Not too shabby.
My favorite blog was also one of the hardest to write- Remembering FranCisco Vargas. I’m also pretty proud of this Friday Five blog about how to support a new restaurant, and the videoblog I did about downtown yarn company Anzula.
(Full disclosure- I’m obsessed with Anzula and am also a brand new blogger for them as of earlier this week. I know, right?! All the yarn, all the blogs!)
Letting go of the DFP blog is definitely one of the more tricky and emotional things about leaving this organization.
Some of you may be really good at picking up on tone and voice in the written word and you’ve probably already seen behind the veil, but I’ve been at the helm of our Facebook since May of 2014. It’s been pretty fun, but also emotionally trying as weird comments come through, and having to respond to them with the voice of the organization in mind, not my own. I’ve deleted a sarcastic “bro” so many times from the ends of comments that it hurts.
I type this now because I’m really hoping that as you troll Facebook pages- even if they’re pages for organizations or businesses, this can act as a reminder that there’s still a human at the other end of that comment, having to sift through it and not take it personally. Expressing frustration is one thing, cursing and being a meanie is another.
One thing that has fascinated me about this facet of our communications has been watching how information spreads. Seeing which news articles we shared got more action and which ones hardly made any impressions. Facebook is such a helpful tool to our organization, acting as a thermometer for what the people who care deeply about downtown are passionate about. Never underestimate the power of the “like” button!
Our following on Facebook was at 3,937 just before I took the reigns. Right now we’re sitting at 6,341. That’s obviously not all my doing, but it does feel good that we’ve grown so much under my supervision. If you’re not a fan of ours on the old FB, like us now!
The Yellow Umbrella Tours
I did a quick calculation and I’ve led well over 25 Yellow Umbrella Tours, our monthly free tour of downtown Fresno. They’ve been one of my favorite parts of my job.
I love that I’ve had a few regulars that have been part of the group almost every time, and that new people show up with great questions and challenge me to expand my knowledge and get back to them after I research the answers.
I love that I’ve been able to partner with other organizations like Chinatown, The Grand, Arte Americas and the Warnors to give behind the scenes tours. I love that I’ve been asked to give bike tours and photowalk tours on the side.
I also offered school tours over the last few years and have had groups that have ranged from 30 students to 200 (broken into smaller groups, of course!)
A few years ago we offered a tour of downtown as a way for school groups to bring a larger bunch of kids at a time to the Ice Rink- half would skate and half would learn about the art and history in downtown.
Then they’d get sidewalk chalk and they could add their own art as they waited to rotate into the next group.
I’ve had teachers send me thank you cards with student interpretations of our artwork afterward. Having a bad day? Open one of those up.
Some of my favorite private tours have been with CCUCP‘s art students. It was fitting that this group was also my last tour group. I finished my final downtown tour with misty eyes, and when I’d explained to them that this was my last one, they rushed me with hugs. It was a beautiful moment. I’m crying at my desk right now just thinking about it.
I’m just gonna leave these right here:
…except not really. Because I love downtown Fresno and believe in it with all my heart. I may be moving to a new job, but my work will always be in the direction of bettering downtown Fresno- even if it changes over to a private-sector, volunteer based form now. Downtown Fresno is part of how I live my life now, and that won’t change, no matter what my business cards say. Thank you to everyone I’ve met along the way- keep on supporting downtown businesses and events! I’ll see you around, I promise. ❤