Five Women Move A Mountain...And End Up in the Trees

July 15, 2009

Have you ever wondered about the SEJ office? Where is it? What does it look like? How many people work there?

When you call the SEJ office you hear, "SEJ, Chris Rigel," or "SEJ office, this is Linda," or "SEJ office, Candy speaking, how can I help you?" If that's all you know about the SEJ office, the following will be an eye-opener.

For many years the SEJ office has been in a second-floor suite in a small downtown district in Jenkintown, Pa., approximately 20 miles outside of Philadelphia. Quarters have gotten tighter each year as the archives grow, the programs grow and the member records increase. Occasional visitors to the office have been amazed that all SEJ programs — the conference, the awards contest, regional event support, listservs, the website to name a few — begin their development and are monitored from this small space with very few people. (The staff couldn't possibly carry out all the programs but the amazing board of directors and members carry them out beautifully, making SEJ one incredible member-driven organization.) Currently five women staff the office, although men also have been on the staff over the years.

Earlier this year it was decided that a move was necessary. You might be wondering why, after a great many years in the same location. The reasons were varied; each had their own level of intensity, most were about our environment ... increasingly unreliable heat and air conditioning in the building; lack of owner maintenance; a water leak with quick-growing mold; bugs; an outside metal stair entrance that was healthy for exercise, unhealthy for handicapped accessibility; metered parking and parking tickets; parking blocks away was healthy for exercise, unhealthy for the handicapped or injured. The location was squeezing us out.

The move was planned over a period of months. First came the search of the real estate agents. Several went out looking for us, armed with our new office specifications. The recession made it a "buyer's market" and a great location was found to house the staff and possessions of SEJ — for less rent. Horray recession!

Then came the battle of attorneys vs. lease language before our executive director pronounced a done deal.

Like a line of ants, SEJ staff began to carry boxes and bags filled with papers to the recycle dumpster at the church across the street. We saved a tree, perhaps two. Boxes for professional shredding soon filled a section of the office.

We purged.We sold and gave away old office furniture that wouldn't be moving with us.We haggled.

We interviewed moving companies and got estimates.We packed, packed, packed.

Where's the Tylenol? 

The day came when the phone and Internet service were cut off then channeled to the new location.We went into a blackout, lost our firewall, found it again; the server was up and down; and the Internet got lost in space for a few days. Cables are our friends.

It was a foggy moving day, May 16. We watched all the member files, accounts files, boxes of records, the history of SEJ conferences and awards, bookcases, desks and computers go down the treacherous outside staircase. Two trucks swallowed up the SEJ office and delivered it to our new home. In the new SEJ headquarters, each office has at least one wall of windows and all we see when we look out are trees. We call our new place "the tree house" and we staffers are "the women of the treetops."

Although the new location (115WestAvenue, Jenkintown, PA 19046) is somewhat smaller than the last, it's a stimulating office space. The five women who moved a mountain of records, archives, SEJ history (and cables) are happy to be here; it might show in the voice you hear the next time you call the SEJ office.

Linda L.S. Knouse is the design editor of SEJournal and records manager at the SEJ office.

** From SEJ's quarterly newsletter SEJournal Summer 2009 issue.

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